As a Justmeans staff writer for the Sustainable Foods editorial department, I explore the disparity between consumerism and independence through the topic of sustainability. As a self-described 'urban homesteader' I look to find the balance between a sustainable lifestyle and use of corporate convenience. I don't necessarily want to live without electricity, but I want to be comfortable if eve...
Senate Bill S510: The Tester Amendment
There's so much to talk lately, regarding Senate Bill S510, because food safety within our industrial farming system is desperately in need of a checkup. The revised bill that is in discussion right now (will resume after Thanksgiving break) has a good amendment that we should examine. Basically it states that small farms are exempt from the same federal regulation, but are still required to comply with state and local authorities. This makes good sense because it provides a community and clientele to regulate independent, local farms that provide not only quality food, but safe and diverse cultures within an otherwise industrial environment.
It offers the local consumer a choice. CalorieLab states the Tester Amendment this way: "Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana has put forth an amendment that would allow farmers who make less than $500,000 a year in revenue and sell directly to consumers, restaurants, or grocery stores within 275 miles of their farms to avoid the expensive food safety plans required of the larger operations. State and local authorities would still have oversight over the farms."
Some of the legislation that is designed to provide safety measures to the industrial food system truly doesn't apply to small farms. The costs of oversight and paperwork could ruin a small farm when the farm has never had a problem in the first place. It's the same as punishing an orange for a apple's offense. Most food borne illnesses occur from large factory farms. In the three+ years I have procured foods from almost exclusively from reputable, local sources, I have not experienced one incident of food borne illness; moreover, I have not heard from anyone else of any farm letting damaged goods into the public. Small farms simply cannot afford that kind of press.
In talking with many of our local farmers, there have been many discussions about federal regulations on their small operations. There are many small farms that practice organic methods and sustainable agriculture that do not register as Certified Organic for a number of reasons, but much of it has to do with cost of certification. How is S510 to be any different? There's also the occasional need to spray things with pesticides (there are organic pesticides, too), but when used as a last resort, this is considered responsible. This is part of the benefit of knowing your farmer.
We can compare this idea to federal regulations included in S510 and small farms. If the S510 can regulate unaccountable large farms that truly are causing the bulk of the problem, local and state officials can deal with unsavory practices within the smaller farms. This seems reasonable and a bill in which most of us wouldn't have a problem supporting.
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