NFU Cites Issues On Two Pending Rules for Food Safety Modernization Act

from the National Farmers Union

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson submitted comments today regarding concerns with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). FDA also announced today that it has extended the comment period to Nov. 22.

“NFU supported passage of FSMA, the first major overhaul of food safety legislation in more than 70 years, and we appreciate that FSMA moves the food safety system from reaction to prevention,” said Johnson. “It is now a matter of establishing regulations to effectively achieve these goals without overreacting to recent outbreaks of foodborne illness in such a way that jeopardizes the livelihoods of family farmers.”

Two of the pending rules for FSMA, the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption (Produce Rule) and the Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls For Human Food (Preventive Controls Rule), have attracted the most attention from NFU’s family farmer members.

“NFU raises concerns about the definition of farms in the rule, as well as the basis for testing requirements and quality standards for agricultural water,” said Johnson. “The comments also urge FDA to reduce the interval that prohibits the application of biological soil amendments before harvesting produce and asks for clarity in how alternative compliance proposals will be considered.”

Furthermore, NFU seeks a second comment period on the rules so that farmers and growers may provide additional feedback to smooth the implementation process for FSMA.

“Great care must be taken when finalizing regulations of this scale, and because of the importance of FSMA to the future of U.S. agriculture, a set of revised rules should be published and made available for comments from stakeholders,” said Johnson. “FSMA is a well-intentioned and important evolution of our food safety system, we ask that the aforementioned comments be considered before proceeding further in the rulemaking process, in the hopes that improvements to consumer confidence in the food supply not come at the expense of family farm agriculture.”

Click here to read the comments.


NFU Comes Out Against Chinese Purchase of Smithfield

Earlier this summer Chinese company Shuanghui International and Smithfield Foods, Inc. announced the Chinese company’s proposed $4.7 billion acquisition of the huge U.S. pork producer.

While Smithfield would be a powerful addition to any food company’s portfolio, many family farmers, food activists and others in the U.S. are alarmed by the Chinese takeover of Smithfield due to the lack of adequate food safety regulations in China and potential foreign domination of an important U.S. industry. According to the National Farmers Union, Smithfield accounts for 15 percent of U.S. pork production and 26 percent of pork processing in the country.

NFU is also concerned about the further consolidation of the U.S. pork industry into the hands of mega corporations.

“The proposed buyout of Smithfield by a Chinese interest is extremely alarming to NFU members across the country,” said Johnson. “Uncompetitive markets in the pork and beef industries have had a dampening effect on the ability of family farmers and ranchers to stay in business.”

In 1980, there were 660,000 hog farms. Today there are only 67,000. In 2011 alone, approximately 2,300 hog producers went out of business.

“The costs of the acquisition far outweigh the benefits to Americans, and the security of our domestic food system is threatened by foreign control,” said Johnson. “ I urge CFIUS to set a bold precedent – that the administration values our farms, our food, and our rural economies so much that the federal government will stand up to a takeover of a large swath of our agriculture industry.”

Other than Shuanghui and Smithfield shareholders, who else stands to benefit from the takeover? Smithfield CEO stands to pocket nearly $47 million. Chinese private equity firm New Horizons and investment bankers at Morgan Stanley will win from Shuanghui’s planned IPO listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange after the deal is complete.

The deal does some hurdles to clear here in the U.S. It will need to be cleared through the Treasury Dept.’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. The committee is chaired by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. NFU has sent a letter to Lew voicing opposition to the deal.

The committee’s website does not have a form for public comment on deals under review, instead, you may want to send Lew a letter voicing your opinion at:

Department of the Treasury

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20220


Ag News Update – October 26, 2011

A few interesting stories from around Ohio and the U.S. from the past few days …

The fracking industry’s war on the NYT – and the truth

Huffington Post – by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

American sourced natural gas might also have helped free us from our debilitating reliance on foreign oil now costing our country so dearly in blood, national security, energy independence, global leadership, moral authority, and treasure amounting to $700 billion per year — the total cost to our country of annual oil imports — in addition to two pricey wars that are currently running tabs $2 billion per week.

My caveat was that the natural gas industry and government regulators needed to act responsibly to protect the environment, safeguard communities from irresponsible practices and to candidly inform the public about the true risks and benefits of shale extraction gas.

The opposite has happened. …

Read the rest at the Huffington Post

Farm Bill process rolling with Ag leaders striving for Nov. 1 deadline

Wallaces Farmer

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is laying out USDA’s farm bill priorities this week. But given the current economic climate, and the efforts of the Congressional Super Committee tasked with finding more than $1.2 trillion in budget cuts, Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says USDA’s leadership may not carry much weight. He says that he thinks there won’t be time for the Administration to have much of an impact.

That’s because the leaders of the Agriculture Committees Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Collin Peterson, D-Minn., have told the members of the Super Committee that they’ll have a detailed set of 2012 Farm Bill policy suggestions aimed at achieving the $23 billion in savings they previously recommended by Nov. 1. Grassley believes it will mostly affect Title I, food stamps and perhaps conservation. His understanding is that programs outside those areas will be handled next year.

Read the rest at Wallaces Farmer

Corn ethanol may heighten food scarcity for world’s poor

The Iowa Independent

Pumping that golden elixir — corn-ethanol — into the gas tank can do a world of good, or so goes the argument.

It relieves the U.S. from dependency on foreign oil, some reports say, and it reduces the pollution spewed out the tailpipe.

But, those benefits may take a high human toll.

Over 80 percent of the world’s supply of corn comes from five countries. The U.S. leads the pack, supplying over half of world’s exports, according to a study released Oct. 13 at the World Food Prize in Des Moines.

Read the rest at The Iowa Independent

Bridging the GAP: Bringing food safety regs to small farms

Food Safety News

For large farming operations, food safety audits are commonplace. Most buyers require them before purchasing produce. However, small farms are rarely inspected by auditors, because the cost of implementing a safety plan can be too expensive.

That’s where Bridging the GAPs – a program designed to help small and mid-sized growers find a way to meet food safety guidelines – comes in.

Organized by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), the initiative will allow modest-sized operations to reach broader markets such as schools, grocery stores and restaurants, most of which now require Good Agricultural Practices certification.

Read the rest at Food Safety News

New rules proposed for kids working on farms

Ohio Farmer

An update of federal labor regulations governing youth employment could mean significant changes in the types of work young people can do on the farm, according to the leader of Ohio State University Extension’s Agricultural Safety and Health program.

“The Hazardous Occupations Orders For Agricultural Employment hasn’t been touched or changed for the past 40 years,” says Dee Jepsen, with OSu’s Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. “What the hazardous occupations order for agriculture does is prohibit youth under the age of 16 from working in and around certain types of environments, outside two basic exemptions.”

One of the two exemptions allowed for in the order historically included allowing children to work on farms owned and operated by their parents. The second traditional exemption was for children under the age of 16 who completed a prescribed farm safety education and training program.

Read the rest at Ohio Farmer