Raw milk producers would face additional red tape under H.R. 875.© www.yumsugar.com
So why the hysteria over H.R. 875?
It’s really a fight about government control. The loose terms and definitions of what H.R. 875 would actually do—enact more stringent and much-needed safety regulations—left room for organic and biodynamic growers to become fearful of government intervention. Section 206 of the bill, which defines a "food production facility," is so ambiguous that individuals beyond large farms (i.e. backyard gardeners) could be penalized and subject to review by the government.
After a flood of inquiries by concerned individuals, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) responded to concerns: "We cannot support a "food safety" bill unless it provides protection or exemptions for organic and farm-to-consumer producers and cracks down on the real corporate criminals who are tampering with and polluting our nation’s food supply," they said in a statement.
H.R. 875 cannot survive in its current state nor is it ever likely to gain widespread support. If the Bush administration showed Americans anything, it was that big business had the upper hand in this country, especially multi-billion dollar produce, dairy and meat agribusinesses. It is clear that alternative growers will not tolerate four more years of being ignored and under-funded by the government.
In light of the salmonella outbreaks in spinach and peanut butter and the presence of mercury in high fructose corn syrup, any discussion that leads toward greater safety in food production and distribution is a positive first step. Factory farms and vast monocultures have proven ineffective; certainly they yield massive amounts of food but at a significant cost to land, animals and humans. Poor regulation over the use of pesticides and the increased likelihood of animals susceptible to disease only further thwarts the confidence of Americans in the national and imported food supply.
The flaws of H.R. 875 are clear: The generic and utilitarian model is not appropriate or fair to apply to the wide range of farms in this country. Small farms already susceptible to government intervention, especially raw dairy producers, only face increased red tape under the bill. The practice and support of organic and biodynamic farming has come too far in this country to give up easily in a fight. Proponents of the local, Slow Food and organic food movements should continue to vocalize their opposition to the current food system model, encouraging the improvement of domestic products and vast support for a transition to organic practices.
ALEXANDRA GROSS is an editorial intern at E.