November 26, 2013

Crapo, Risch Work to Ease Burdens for Farmers

Senators ask FDA to submit second proposed rules for public comment; Still pushing for a vote on the SCRAP Act

Washington, D.C. - The Thanksgiving meal provides a good reminder of the hard work by America's farmers and ranchers to provide safe and affordable food.  Unfortunately, according to a bipartisan coalition of U.S. senators, the increasing amount of burdensome regulations from Washington are putting unneeded stress on these producers and processors.  Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have joined in a bicameral letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), requesting that the FDA propose and submit a second set of proposed rules for public comment before issuing final rules in compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act.  Previously, the FDA extended the comment period on the proposed rules to November 15, 2013.  Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) and Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) are leading the letter co-signed by Crapo and Risch.

"After hearing many reservations from our farmers and businesses, we are concerned that the rules as currently proposed, and the heavy cost of complying with them, will force some producers and processors to shutter their operations," wrote the Members of Congress. 

"Idaho's agriculture community, like agriculture producers across the country, are speaking out against the negative effects and costs the proposed FDA rules will have on small and mid-sized farmers," said Crapo.  "Not only will these new regulations greatly affect Idaho's agricultural community, but consumers will see higher prices as a result of the drop in food production.  I support ensuring the safety of our food supply, but we must be reasonable in our approach and ensure that any needed remedies are tailored to properly address the problem."

"It is unfortunate that the FDA is working to find a solution to a problem that they themselves have created.  These proposed rules will create needless additional burden and costs at a time when we should do more to assist the agricultural industry in keeping our food supply safe and affordable for all Americans," said Risch.

Crapo and Risch recently offered the Stopping Costly Regulations Against Produce (SCRAP) Act as an amendment to the Senate version of the Farm Bill.  The SCRAP Act would have defunded the FDA's proposed fresh produce rule, which producers say lacks common sense and is completely unworkable.  Unfortunately, the amendment was not allowed a vote during consideration of the bill.  Congressman Dr. Dan Benishek (R-Michigan) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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 stringent 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. 

To read the full text of the letter, click here.