Published Oct 31, 2013

Thoughts on the FSMA? Submit Your Comments by Nov. 15

By Tamsyn Jones

The following information is being submitted on behalf of Drake Larsen, communications and policy associate at Practical Farmers, who is out of town this week.

Andy Dunham stands by his Practical Farmers of Iowa sign at Grinnell Heritage Farm

Andy Dunham stands by his Practical Farmers of Iowa sign at Grinnell Heritage Farm. Andy is concerned about what the FSMA will mean for his farm if the new rules are not modified.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the first major overhaul of U.S food safety rules since 1938. FSMA covers two broad sets of rules: The Produce Rule covers farmers that grow, harvest, pack or store fruits and vegetables; the Preventative Controls Rule covers businesses that process, manufacture, pack or hold food including meat. The regulations focus on addressing food safety risks from microbial pathogen contamination.

FSMA was signed into law in early 2011 and the new rules are currently in the rulemaking stage, meaning the USDA and FDA are turning the bill into the actual rules to be used on the ground. Under this review process, the FDA is accepting public comment through Nov.15, 2013. Several items are raising red flags for farmers, including:

  • manure and compost application restrictions
  • conflicts with conservation practices
  • restrictions on mixed crops and livestock
  • water use testing requirements, and
  • costly recording keeping.

“I am not opposed to food safety regulations,” says Andy Dunham, who runs Grinnell Heritage Farm with his wife, Melissa, in Grinnell, Iowa. “But I worry that these new rules, if not more carefully thought out, will place real burdens on beginning farmers and small farms.” Andy says that “the biggest danger” he sees in the new rules is the costs it will place on small farms. Based on information from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), Andy estimates the new rules could cost his farm $12,000 to $15,000 per year to comply.

He and Melissa also worry that the draft FSMA rules conflict with existing organic standards governing use of manure and compost. “Our usage of animal manures fully complies with National Organic Program standards and allows us to effectively use on-farm sources of fertilizer,” Andy says. If the draft rules remain unchanged, he worries they will render manure use impossible on Grinnell Heritage Farm due to the excessive intervals that FSMA requires between application and harvest.

With big changes on the horizon, it’s critical that the FDA gets this right. If you farm, know farmers who might be affected — or are simply concerned about what these changes might bode — Practical Farmers encourages you to learn more and submit comments.

Read the full set of rules at:

Submit comments at the Federal eRulemaking Portal:

NSAC has done a thorough job deciphering the legislation.
Read its assessment here.

Also, look for an article about the FSMA in the upcoming fall issue of “the Practical Farmer” (it should be hitting mailboxes in the next few days, or look for it here