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Critical Food Safety Vote on Nov. 17th - Call Your Senator Now!

Submitted by Food Democracy Now on November 16, 2010 - 6:17am

Tester Food Safety Alert - S.510Critical Food Safety Vote in 24 Hours: Tell your Senators to protect family farmers and local food today!

In the last two years alone America has witnessed some of the largest food safety recalls in our nation’s history, including the American Peanut Corporation fiasco and more recently, Jack DeCoster’s massive egg recall.

If one thing is clear from watching this news, it’s the fact that America’s food system is broken and needs to be fixed.

During this same time, the sustainable food and agriculture community has been gripped by the debate over food safety legislation. After countless rumors, battles behind the scenes in DC and passage in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Food Safety Modernization Bill (S.510) has languished in the U.S. Senate until now.

Tomorrow (Nov. 17th) the Senate is finally set to vote on the controversial bill, and small-scale and organic farmers urgently need two important amendments so the new regulations don't place huge financial burdens on small farmers.

Without these two important amendments -- currently opposed by all the big names in agribusiness -- small farmers will not be protected from inappropriate regulations meant to curtail the largest and most likely culprits of food safety outbreaks in the U.S.: giant, consolidated agribusinesses and their massive processing partners.

Please call your Senators and tell them it's time to stand up for family farmers, farmers markets and restaurants that source their products locally from small farmers and are driving the safe, healthy food renaissance in America.

Click here to call your Senators to ask them to protect small farmers and local food economies today.

When you click, we'll provide your Senators' contact information and a way to tell us how the call went. That way we can track our campaign's progress.

For those who have followed this debate closely, one needs to only consider that yesterday a Who’s Who of Big Ag sent Congress a letter demanding that your Senators not allow the Tester Amendment nor the Manager’s Amendments to pass.

The battle lines are drawn, with the American Meat Institute, National Chicken Council, National Meat Association, National Pork Producers Council and the National Turkey Federation once again railing against small-scale family farms and local food production.

It's clear that we need food safety legislation. However, without the Tester-Hagan Amendment, small farmers will be subject to "one size fits all" food safety regulations that will unfairly subject them to the same standards as Tyson, Smithfield, DeCoster and the worst food safety abusers.

Sustainable Ag groups such as the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) have been hard at work for the past 18 months on this bill, protecting the interests of small farmers and we need to support their efforts.

Farmer Protections from The Tester-Hagan Amendment

The first and most important provision is the Tester-Hagan amendment, which provides an exemption for family farmers who gross less than $500,000 and sell direct to farmers markets, restaurants, customers and local stores within 400 miles of their farm/processing facility. As the only organic farmer in the U.S. Senate, John Tester has made sure that this amendment protects the growing local food movement and allows small and beginning farmers the opportunity to grow the most economically vibrant part of agriculture, without excessive fees or paperwork that could harm smaller-scale producers.

The Manager's Amendment

In addition, the Manager's Amendment, which includes 5 vital amendments, would protect small-scale farmers from burdensome paperwork, offer farmers competitive grants for food safety training, allow them to engage in co-mingling of products from multiple farms in processing, reduce paperwork and excessive traceability requirements, and protect wildlife and wildlife habitat.

While we understand that there are fears from many members within the sustainable food and agriculture community regarding S. 510, only the Tester-Hagan Amendment and the Manager’s Amendment stand to offer real protections to small-scale local and organic farmers that are at the center of a resurgence in agriculture today, while protecting all of America's food consumers.

Tomorrow (Nov. 17th) this bill is finally set to come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate and farmers need you to call your Senators and tell them it’s time to stand up for family farmers, farmers markets and restaurants that source their products locally from small farmers.

With the most recent elected officials set to take office next year, this may be our last best hope of protecting consumers and small farmers alike - please take a moment to make this important call today!

Thank you for participating in food democracy today!

- Dave, Lisa and The Food Democracy Now! Team

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