The following is a letter Mike and I drafted and are mailing today to Representative Patrick Kennedy. I thought I’d share it with you, and I would encourage you to take the time to contact your Representative, too, regarding this important issue. Thank you for reading.
Dear Representative Kennedy:
We are writing to urge you to vote no on HR 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. We oppose this bill for three reasons:
1. The bill imposes burdensome requirements while not specifically targeting the industrial food system and food imports, where the real food safety problems lie.
2. Small farms and local food processors are part of the solution to food safety; lessening the regulatory burden on them will improve food safety.
3. The bill gives the FDA much more power than it has had in the past while making the agency less accountable for its actions.
We urge amendment of this bill to exclude small and family farms, where food is raised and processed by hand, from the provisions of this bill.
We also urge you to support the Kaptur-Farr amendment to HR 2749, which would focus attention on the true trouble spots in agriculture, the large industrial farms that have introduced fatal strains of E. coli and Salmonella into the food supply. No known strains have ever been traced to small or family farms, and yet they will bear a huge burden in complying with the mandates of 2749.
We want to ask you, Mr. Representative, whether you have visited any of Rhode Island’s farmers’ markets this year, or talked to local farmers about this bill?
Rhode Island farmers’ markets are thriving because consumers in Rhode Island demand locally grown food. They want pastured meats, chickens and eggs, and they want vegetables grown naturally and organically in their own communities. Money spent at Rhode Island farmers’ markets remains in Rhode Island and the surrounding states. By nurturing the farmers’ markets in Rhode Island, you’re helping to support the economy of Southern New England. If these farms fail thanks to the burdensome requirements of HR 2749, and consumers are forced to buy meat and produce from far away, this will have an immediate and devastating effect on the economies of Southern New England communities and on the physical health of their residents.
The Providence/Pawtucket Winter Market at Hope Artiste Village was a national model for what a wintertime farmers’ market can accomplish. The Winter Market offered locally produced beef, pork, chicken, shellfish, eggs, cheese, milk, cream, vegetables, and fruit, even into the depths of winter. The Winter Market succeeded beyond the dreams of its organizers. The market was always crowded, even on the snowiest morning.
This bill would put a tax on every one of those farmers, even those who don’t raise animals themselves. You have a choice before you. You can crush these farms and markets, or you can nurture them and show the country what its smallest state can achieve.
Jennifer Hess and Michael Dietsch, Providence
Read about H.R. 2749 here.