New Food Safety Guidelines Concern Organic Farmers
By Tom Ryan
A series of new food safety rules are expected to add incremental
costs to all food producers. Ironically, among those most disturbed by
the new guidelines are organic farmers, an industry built on delivering
wholesome and safe products.
“There is a lot of transparency in the organic food system
and we’ve had it in place for several decades and we do so willingly,” Tom
Willey, an organic farmer in California, said recently to Reuters. “The
lack of that is what characterizes industrial producers.”
In June, the Energy and Commerce committee of the U.S. House
of Representatives passed what promises to be the most sweeping reform
of the food safety system in close to 50 years. It came after a string of
food recalls over the last few years.
Under the new legislation, the industry would have to pay
a $500 registration fee per facility to pay for more plant inspections.
Farms, restaurants and retail food establishments that sell their products
directly to consumers, not businesses, are exempt from this fee. There
would be a $175,000 cap on such fees.
Organic farmers claim the definition of a facility is unclear
in the legislation. They also worry that the costs and effort involved
will be overly-taxing on small businesses. Inspections will be more frequent,
taking place every six to 12 months at high-risk facilities and between
18 months and three years for lower-risk locations.
“Based on the escalating cost that would be involved in conforming
to this legislation — administrative fees, record keeping and internal
labor requirements — we can force out of business some of the highest
quality practitioners,” said Mark Kastel, an analyst at the Cornucopia
Institute in Wisconsin.
Mr. Kastel is also skeptical of the success of the guidelines
since many of the producers involved in the spate of recalls are rallying
“It’s unsettling when grocery associations and major processed
food producers get together and agree with the government that they’re
going to do this without any regard to the high quality organic practitioners,” said
Do you think the new food safety guidelines will unfairly target small
and medium organic farmers? What impact will the guidelines have on
organic farming and the products that find their way to consumers’