Bipartisan Bill Includes Bennet Amendment to Ensure Flexibility for Small Farmers, Small Businesses
Denver, CO – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released the following statement on Senate passage of a bipartisan bill to protect Colorado consumers by ensuring the food they feed their families is safe and of the highest possible quality.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which includes amendments Bennet wrote and others he fought to include in the bill to reduce the regulatory burden on small and mid-size farms and businesses, passed the Senate 73-25.
“As the father of three little girls, I want to ensure the food we put on our tables is safe for our kids to eat. Recent major food recalls, including the egg recall, highlight the need for this long overdue legislation to give Colorado parents some peace of mind knowing the food they put on their tables doesn’t put their families in harm’s way. After nearly a year of needless delays, we have finally moved forward on this bipartisan bill that will protect Colorado consumers and finally bring food safety in this country into the 21st century.
“We need to make sure that these important new reforms protecting the safety of our food don’t unnecessarily threaten Colorado’s family farms. These reforms will not work for Colorado’s small farms unless they are flexible and recognize the unique needs of our family farms and ranches. The amendments I fought for support family farms by ensuring these reforms work for all sizes and types of facilities.”
The bill is supported by a number of local and national organizations representing consumers, agricultural producers and health interests. The bill now has to be passed by the House before being sent to the President for signature into law.
“We care about our customers and always want the food they receive to be healthful and safe,” said Steve Ela of Ela Family Farms in Hotchkiss, Colorado. “This bill is an important step in increasing confidence in our food supply. Senator Bennet’s amendment helps to make sure that any regulations are appropriate to the scale and type of farm. It will help innovative small and moderate farms, like ours, continue to compete and produce high quality, safe food without overregulation.”
“As the parent of a child who has lived this nightmare, I am grateful for Senator Bennet’s work on this bill,” said Kip Moore of Golden, Colorado, whose child survived a life-threatening E. Coli infection. “I will sleep better at night knowing that there are greater protections in place to prevent another family from going through what we did.”
“On behalf of the Colorado Public Health Association, I would like to thank Senator Bennet for supporting stronger safety protections for our nation's food supply,” said Dr. Christopher Urbina, president of Colorado Public Health Association (CPHA). “Families need effective systems that can ensure the food we eat is safe from the food-borne diseases that currently cause 76 million illnesses, send 250,000 people to the hospital, and kill 5,000 Americans each year.”
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act
This bill represents a major food-safety overhaul that includes:
- Requiring food processing and other regulated facilities to conduct an analysis of the most likely safety hazards and to create controls to prevent them;
- Directing FDA to establish science-based “performance standards” for the most significant food contaminants and improving food-borne illness surveillance systems;
- Increasing frequency of inspections, extending oversight to certain types of agricultural production, and mandating product recalls if not done voluntarily;
- Establishing more scrutiny of food imports; and
- Creating provisions for certifying or accrediting laboratories to conduct sampling and testing of food for oversight purposes.
Key Amendments to Protect Small Farms and Producers
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act includes several provisions Bennet pushed for to reduce the regulatory burden on small and mid-size farms and producers.
Bennet’s amendment directs the FDA to make sure any guidance or regulations:
- Are practicable for all sizes and types of facilities;
- Minimize paperwork by taking risk into account;
- Minimize the number of separate standards that apply to any individual facility; and
- Enable facilities to prepare their own food safety plans without requiring them to consult with a third party, to the maximum extent possible.
Bennet also supported three other amendments with the goal of protecting small and mid-sized agriculture while building robust and practical food-safety protections. One amendment provides training and technical assistance to small and mid-sized farms, beginning and socially-disadvantaged farmers through the United States Department of Agriculture. Another amendment ensures fair rulemaking for small facilities by having the FDA consider risk when applying requirements and allowing the FDA to concentrate on high-risk facilities. The final amendment allows small farms with annual sales less than $500,000 that sell the majority of their product directly to consumers, restaurants and retailers within 275 miles of their farm to only have to comply with state regulations. But this exemption could be withdrawn for any farm that is found to have a food safety issue.