You’ll recall from my last post that the FDA estimates the annual cost of compliance with the FSMA to domestic farms to be roughly $460 million. However, anyone reading past the press briefings by the agency has the opportunity to learn that the FDA further specifies the division of this cost. According to the agency’s analysis the cost of compliance with FSMA every year, will be nearly $4700 for ‘very small farms’, nearly $13,000 for ‘small farms’ and $30,566 for ‘large farms’. If this still doesn’t mean very much to you then you may want to jump over to another important policy document produced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
According to the 2007 Ag Census, 60% of all farms in the country report sales of less than $10,000 annually. These farms are what the USDA classifies as ‘very small farms’. The FDA is expecting ‘very small farms’ to suddenly add expenses equal to nearly half of their annual revenue. I’ll save you the research and subsequent algebra and let you know that this means over 1.315.470 farms will potentially be driven out of business. And that’s just the ‘very small farms’. The Ag Census does not provide specific enough data regarding where on the spectrum from $10,001 to $250,000 the remaining 31% of U.S. ‘small farms’ fall. But to be sure many of them are just too large to be counted as a ‘very small farm’. This means that a certain percentage of farms are expected to pay out thousands of dollars more than they make each year. The implications for this are devastating for a vast majority of the nations farms and farmers.
But what are the implications for you, your family and your dinner plates. Many officials at the national and state levels all across the nation have recently ratcheted up the rhetorical campaign about this issue by suddenly claiming that small-scale farms are just as likely to cause outbreaks as large farms. This is to combat two arguments that most of us small-scale, and yes, ‘very small’ scale farmers are making. First, the illnesses and outbreaks caused by food are traced back to huge corporate farms, huge packing facilities and national or regional grocery chains. And second, the regulations being crafted to combat the problems do not take into account the difference in scale and the beneficial effects that small-scale have on food safety. So who is right, the government officials or the farmers and food sovereignty activists?
Anytime you hear an official claim (anything really) that small farms are just as likely as large to cause outbreaks of illness you should remember a quote by the most widely read political thinker and dissident in the world (excluding the U.S.) Noam Chomsky.
This is one of the most obvious reasons I say that the Food Safety Modernization Act will result in a food system that is less safe than the current 1 in 6 of us gets sick system. The result of this law and the resulting regulations being written by the FDA will lead to the loss of the farms that actually produce safe food. This will have lasting effects beyond this generation. Once this fact is finally recognized by the mainstream we may find that much of the knowledge of how to produce food safely has been lost. This is already happening due to the industrialization of the farm. That knowledge has always been passed from one generation to the next on the farm. What happens when those farms disappear?
In my next post I’ll get into the “science” behind the FDA’s proposed rules. That science also leads to a system that is no safer than the one we have now. And the FDA can prove it. Local food. Eat well – be well.