Thursday, April 09, 2009

H.R. 875: Hold the hysteria!

HildeThere has been a huge amount of panic on the internet in recent weeks regarding food safety legislation, spurred on by unfounded fears that one of the food safety bills introduced in Congress (H.R. 875) will threaten small family farmers, end organic farming and even criminalize backyard gardeners. The frenzy is grossly exaggerated and rooted in misinformation. While H.R. 875 is not perfect, it is certainly not intended to wipe out organic farming or local food. And with H.R. 875 getting the brunt of negative attacks, food safety bills that are less friendly to small farmers and diverse modes of production, such as H.R. 759 and H.R. 1332, are gaining traction in congress.

As with most legislation, these food safety bills are intended to provide a general framework. The fine points will be added once a bill has passed through the halls of congress and is translated into rules at the agency level. As the saying goes: "the devil is in the details." It is with these details that Farm Aid and our partner groups will engage to ensure that any new regulations in food safety reflect and support the diversity of farms and processing facilities that contribute to a vibrant, sustainable and safe food system in America.

As always, we'll be sure to keep you updated with any opportunities for action. We'll also be providing a more extensive look into America's broken food safety system in our April newsletter. In the meantime, if you receive a frantic email about H.R. 875, please don't forward on the frenzy. Instead, point your friends and family to this great fact sheet from Food & Water Watch or to this food safety update by Farm Aid funded-group Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.


  1. Thanks for the update and I will certainly be checking back on the status of 875. It's important to have a moderator between the GOVT and the American people at times to avoid miscommunications and a lack of trust. The only way to get things done the right way is together. Thanks for the article.

  2. Anonymous10:48 AM

    The problem with these bills is that they are too broad and open to too many interpretations. Be careful adhering too closely to the desire to believe that this administration only wants what is best for us. It just isn't true. If these bills are passed as worded, they can and will cause trouble for small, local farmers down the road. Frankly, I'm surprised by Farm Aid's lack of concern. Yes, "the devil is in the details" and these bills already have details that will harm small farmers. If you wait too long to intervene the damage will already be done.

  3. Yesterday, April 23, HR 875 was referred to the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry.

    There had been no action on it since it was referred on February 4 to the House Energy and Commerce committee and the House House Agriculture committee. I don't know what that means exactly but I'm still hopeful that it never makes it out of committee.

  4. On April 23, H.R. 875 was referred to the House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry. It has been sitting in the House Agriculture Committee and the House Energy and Commerce since Feb. 4. Hopefully this bill will come to a quiet end in the subcommittee.

  5. Anonymous11:27 PM

    This bill is draconian and will affect every single farmer, and will mean a slow but certain death for heritage seeds. I too am amazed and disappointed by indifference to this bills potentially destructive impact.
    This year, 2009, standard seed cleaning equipment, used for decades without problems of any kind, became illegal for use on farms and for farmers in some parts of the country.  Under such restrictions, the seeds must meet “strict safety standards” imposed by the FDA. Seeds, please be aware, have been recently redefined as “food”. Compliance on equipment can require an investment of one million to two million dollars in construction and equipment -to clean each type of seed.  Seeds cleaned on equipment previously considered 'normal' have become illegal for farmers to sell in the parts of the US that fall under these legal regulations.  
    If this is applied across the country, organic seed and heritage seed supplies will start disappearing.  And obviously, the inability to sell seed will destroy some farmers who raise seed specifically, and seed companies not already purchased by Monsanto! HR 875 regulates the sale of seeds at every level.
    Then, the government could apply the same “strict standard” to “storage facilities” and require million dollar facilities for storing seeds “sorting” and “storing” are both listed in HR 875. And that ends the quiet and simple life of seed banks, seed exchanges, and our own private holding of seed; done without anyone ever having to mention criminalizing a thing.  Just “food safety.”

  6. Anonymous11:28 PM

    forgot to say "i love you guys!"

  7. Anonymous4:41 AM

    HR875, and any farming/food safety bills sponsored by Monsanto or any other big-agra corporation is inherently bad. If any member of Congress honestly considers the obvious outcomes and any possible outcome of the effects of HR875 on food safety and consumer price they would vote against it and any similar bill now pending or in the future. The only exceptions to voting for such legislation would be legislators who haven't read the bill, and legislators who have been persuaded or compromised by corporate interests and tactics. The sins and crimes of the lackadaisical and dishonest law makers are very evident abominations that eventually do not go unnoticed or unpunished.