August 26, 2013

Food Safety Important But Must Be Reasonable

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Taking preventative measures to ensure food safety is an important goal.  However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) proposed fresh produce rule is another example of the federal government going too far.  FDA's umbrella approach in its treatment of various crops and commodities regardless of risk level places unnecessary, costly burdens on certain farming operations.  We cannot allow excessive regulations and costs to continue to be layered on farm families and expect them to be able to feed a growing population with less.

On January 4, 2013, the FDA issued a proposed rule for growing, harvesting, packing and holding fresh produce.  Among its requirements, the proposed rule would require weekly testing of all agricultural water at a cost of $35 to $40 per week.  If levels of coliform bacteria exceed the FDA's standard, the farmer must cease irrigation until the water is in compliance, running a high risk of ruining a crop.  The FDA estimates that the cost of implementation will cost a producer approximately $5,000 to $30,600 per farm, depending on size, with a total industry cost of $460 million.

The rule was created pursuant to the 2011 enactment of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was driven by concerns with high profile incidents of food contamination.  I voted against this legislation when it was passed by Congress due to concerns with its large cost and far sweeping federal regulations.  I support ensuring the safety of our water and food supplies, but we must be reasonable in our approach and ensure that any needed remedies are tailored to properly address the problem without overly burdening producers with additional unnecessary paperwork and costs.  Unfortunately, this legislation and the resulting, proposed rule have not achieved that goal.  

The majority of produce grown in the United States is designated as low risk.  However, FDA's assertion that even minimum risk commodities should be subject to the same rules based on evidence that has not materialized is particularly concerning.  FDA should focus its efforts on proven risks, not impose costly regulatory burdens on producers based on hypothetical evidence.  Such action will have a major impact on Idaho's agriculture community by driving up costs on small and mid-sized famers, leading to significant drops in food production and higher prices. 

That is why I joined Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) in offering the Stopping Costly Regulations Against Produce (SCRAP) Act as an amendment to the Senate version of the Farm Bill.  The SCRAP Act would defund the FDA's proposed fresh produce rule that will negatively impact farmers throughout the country.  Unfortunately, the amendment was not allowed a vote during consideration of the Farm Bill.  However, we continue to work to resolve this issue.  Congressman Dr. Dan Benishek (R-Michigan) also introduced this legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Additionally, I am continuing to engage with the FDA to raise concerns with the proposed rule.  The FDA extended the comment period on the proposed ruleto November 15, 2013. 

We need to focus time and resources on cleaning up and fixing particular problems, not broadly putting in place more mandates that simply drain resources.  Farmers and ranchers work hard to put safe, quality food on their families' tables and tables across the nation and world.  Food safety measures must work to fix problems without crippling production.  I encourage those interested in this issue to review the proposed rule and provide input to the FDA.  The rule can be accessed on the FDA's

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