[permaculture] HR 2479 alert (US proposed legislation that will negatively impact local foods

Robert Waldrop bwaldrop at cox.net
Wed Jul 29 22:16:03 EDT 2009


I'm sorry, but I would like to interrupt our 
discussion with news of a potential threat to 
small scale vegetable production and artisan food 
processing in the United Stats.

HR 2479 is a proposed bill in the US House of 
Representatives that would have negative impacts 
on many small farmers.  For the first time, it 
would allow the FDA to issue regulations governing 
the production, harvesting, and distribution of 
fresh vegetables. It imposes new fees and 
regulations on artisan food producers and on 
farmers.

It was first presented to the full House this 
afternoon (Wednesday) under rules that allowed no 
debate or floor amendments, and thus it required a 
2/3rds majority to pass.  It fell short of the 
required votes by only 6.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the House Rules 
Committee met under emergency rules, made a few 
minor changes to the bill, but left most of it 
intact.  So it will be voted on again, possibly 
very soon.  The summary of the changes the Rules 
Committee made at its page reporting the action 
http://rules.house.gov/SpecialRules_details.aspx?NewsID=4413 
is inaccurate.

I read the entire thing.  (I had to put on some 
relaxing music so I could get through it. I 
probably also should have been drinking chamomile 
tea. Or maybe bourbon.)

The last sentence of the committee summary of its 
action says -- "In the fresh produce section of 
the bill, it is clarified that the FDA should 
issue standards only for the riskiest types of 
products."

I didn't find anything that actually said that in 
the actual text.  There's some fluff about 
consulting with the Sec of Ag and taking into 
account the impact on small farmers yadda yadda 
yadda but I didn't see anything that would prevent 
the FDA from issuing detailed regs to farmers 
about their vegetable production practices.

Another problem with the summary -- "For instance, 
the substitute amendment provides that farms, 
including those that process food and feed that 
they sell to other farms or primarily directly to 
consumers, do not have to register or pay. "

This is sort of true and sort of not true.  If a 
farm sells to both individuals and into some sort 
of regular commercial marketplace, the value of 
the sales of individuals must be greater than the 
value of its other sales for the farm to be 
exempt.  Also, "farm to school" sales are NOT 
exempt, so this will be a burden for farmers 
participating in farm to school programs.

I also didn't really see anything that exempts 
artisan producers.  Maybe some that only do direct 
sales, but once they branch out from that, they 
come under the full impact of the regulations, and 
the fines for non-compliance are very large, 
starting at $20K and going up from there, and 
every "day" of the violation is a separate 
offense.  I can see people looking at that risk 
(plus the criminal penalties, which start at 10 
years in jail) and deciding to just close up shop.

They did take out the bizarre provision of the 
original bill that would allow meat packers to use 
carbon monoxide to preserve the red color of the 
meat. .

I think this bill is likely to negatively impact 
anyone involved with permaculture who is also 
trying to earn income by the sale of their on-site 
produced products.

I intend to continue to oppose this bill and 
encourage others to do likewise. If you are in the 
United States, you can find out the contact info 
for your congressional representative by going to 
http://www.house.gov and entering your zip code in 
the box in the upper left corner of the screen.

It's obvious that this is an attempted major power 
grab of authority over the growing of vegetables, 
and the last minute exemptions the Rules Committee 
threw in are only a fig leaf attempt to give up 
the least amount possible so they can maybe get 
this passed.

Once the camels nose of regulation of vegetable 
production is in the tent, the rest of the animal 
will not be far behind.  The attitude of the 
government towards farming for 50 years has been 
"get big or get out", and I think this is the 
latest incarnation of that program. For some, it 
may be the last straw and they will just give up.

I feel like I need a flag with a cabbage on it 
that says -- "Don't tread on me."

Robert Waldrop, president
Oklahoma Food Cooperative
www.oklahomafood.coop
froglet in training with Barking Frogs 
Permaculture, www.barkingfrogspermaculture.org 




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