National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition:

"Briefing underscores need for Farm Bill investments in food safety"

Food safety is always on farmers’ minds, but this year – with the Farm Bill on the horizon and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implementing its new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations – farmers will be closely following federal food safety policy debates. Last week, farmers and food safety advocates came to Washington D.C. to speak on a panel of experts as part of a congressional briefing hosted by Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME).

Farm Bill programs have long been a primary means of support for producers and processors interested in: accessing new markets (for which new or sometimes complex food safety plans may be required); implementing conservation co-management practices; accessing food safety training and technical assistance; and investing in new on-farm infrastructure. These resources are crucial for all farmers and processors, but especially for those facing additional regulatory requirements under FSMA. In order to ensure producers and processors are able to comply with the new regulations and keep their businesses going strong, is critical that the 2018 Farm Bill expand its investment in farmer support and outreach.

Representatives Fortenberry and Pingree, along with Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), are committed to supporting food safety outreach, training, and assistance for farmers in the 2018 Farm Bill. The Local Food and Regional Markets Act (or the Local FARMS Act), which the Representatives introduced in October 2017, includes funding for several of the food safety programs highlighted during last week’s briefing, including the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP) and a new Food Safety Certification Cost Share program. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) was deeply involved in the creation of the Local FARMS Act, and strongly supports efforts to move these proposals forward in the next farm bill.

Highlights from the panel, which included two NSAC member organizations as well as representatives from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the United Fresh Produce Association, are detailed here.

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