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New FDA Rules Will Put Organic Farms Out Of Business

FDA rules organic farm

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In its efforts to ensure the safety of food, the US government may actually be ignoring the real problem while shutting down small organic farms.

So says the Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group which released a 16-page analysis accusing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in a way that will crush “the country’s safest farmers” while leaving what Cornucopia calls the “root threats to human health” – contaminated manure made on “factory” livestock farms and certain produce-processing methods – untouched.

“In response to deadly outbreaks involving spinach, peanut butter and eggs, Congress acted decisively three years ago to pass the Food Safety Modernization Act,” said Mark A. Kastel, co-director at Cornucopia. “Better oversight is needed but it looks like regulators and corporate agribusiness lobbyists are simultaneously using the FSMA to crush competition from the organic and local farming movement.”

The paper noted a recently-released research report by Cornucopia that looks at the FDA’s regulations for implementing the FSMA, along with guidance meant to control Salmonella in eggs from outdoor flocks. The report concludes that such regulations would fall hardest on family farmers, and it alleges that the abuses the regulations were meant to correct “are mostly emanating from industrial-scale farms and giant agribusiness food-processing facilities.”

“The FDA freely acknowledges that the farm cost of implementing their proposed Rule will drive some producers out of business,” the paper says. “Record keeping, testing protocols, and the need for an auditor will cost thousands of dollars. The FDA estimates an approximate annual cost of $4,700 for very small farms and $13,000 for medium-sized operations. In a very narrow margin business, these costs can amount to a significant percentage of a farm family’s net income. And these FDA numbers may be an underestimate.”

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The report also says an amendment to the FSMA designed to protect farmers doing less than $500,000 in business will be practically useless; the FDA is proposing that it can still force small farms to submit to the same record-keeping and testing requirements as large enterprises.

“In practical terms,” said Judith McGeary, a member of Cornucopia’s policy advisory panel and executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, “the FDA will be able to target small farms one-by-one and put them out of business, with little to no recourse for the farmers.”

Cornucopia’s report says the FDA has “wildly inflated” the number of food-borne illnesses coming from farm production (which the paper defines as “seed to harvest rather than contamination that occurs later in processing and distribution”).

“The proposed rule is a mess,” Daniel Cohen, owner of Maccabee Seed Company, a longtime industry observer, told Cornucopia. “The FDA has much greater expertise on food safety issues from harvest to the consumer, but focused instead on farming issues from planting to harvest. Limited, modest, and more focused steps to improve on-farm food-safety could have produced simple, affordable, effective, and enforceable regulation.”

Cornucopia says the biggest problem is the lack of attention paid to giant concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) – otherwise known as factory farms. It says the huge amount of manure stored at these operations is “commonly tainted by highly infectious bacteria that have been polluting America’s air, water and farmlands.”

“Federal regulators propose nothing to address sick livestock in animal factories and their pathogen-laden manure that is contaminating surrounding rural communities, nearby produce farms and our food supply,” Kastel said in the article.

According to the article, the issue of food safety is causing rifts between organizations that have historically been aligned, such as family farm organizations and nonprofits focusing on consumer interests. Some advocates wanted no exemptions to the FSMA act at all.

“Only an idiot would not be concerned with food safety,” Tom Willey, a Madera, California, organic vegetable producer and longtime organic advocate told Cornucopia.

“The antibiotic resistant and increasingly virulent organisms contaminating produce, from time to time, are mutant creatures introduced into the larger environment from confined industrial animal operations across the American countryside,” he added. “The FDA’s misguided approach could derail achievements in biological agriculture and a greater promise of food made safe through respect for and cooperation with the microbial community which owns and operates this planet upon which we are merely guests.”

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  1. f$#@ the f d a

    • Ditto. It hasn’t been worth a damn since its inception. I’ll take my chances with a community garden.

      But to ban organic food companies such as Whole Foods, Sprouts, etc. as well as the small independent green-grocer/health food store is criminal. If I buy produce from a chain grocery, I soak everthing, including items that will be peeled, for 15 minutes in Palmolive Anti-bacterial dish detergent. I spoke with my doctor about it and he said that it wasn’t a bad idea at all to do this…just be sure to rinse with pressure from the vegetable sprayer, getting all the soap off and let it air dry. I wipe apples hard to dry them and get the funky “dull” stuff off; don’t know what it is but I feel better about polishing it off.

      I don’t trust the FDA at all or the USDA for that matter.

      I’ll buy Kosher meats before I buy anything that says “Halal-prepared”. Halal is the Muslim ritual of preparing meats but it is NOT as finicky or clean as Kosher. I’m not Jewish but my kitchen is. They have the right idea about food prep and animal slaughter.

      • You may want to watch the free online film “earthlings”… Kosher CAFOs are still disgusting and have few regulations… Meat that is produced anywhere but at a local single butcher probably experiences torture beyond belief…

      • fleurdilis,

        Just like you, I recommend washing all produce before consuming.


        This anti-bacterial dish soap you speak of is part of the overall problem. First off, much of it ends up working its way into the environment causing the destruction of beneficial bacteria, not to mention the increasing pollution that’s found in our flora, fish, and fauna.

        Then that product you mention is from a huge corporation that I consider an enemy to the planet.

        Hydrogen peroxide is amazingly inexpensive, and works wonders at killing all pathogens, even on raw chicken. You can pour it on your hands for a disinfectant, and mix it with other things for different applications around the house.

        For dishes we use Borax, also for the laundry, mixed with vinegar. A little Borax, some baking soda, and a little vinegar also does miracles as a shampoo.

        I choose to avoid all big corporate products and try hard not to use anything harmful in my daily routines and chores. That includes alternative pesticides like Borax and diotemacious earth because toxic ones never go away. They recently found banned DDT in polar ice from the 70’s.

        • Nice to hear from another person who is concerned about our food supply; so many people are not. I spoke with my doctor about the anti-bacterial dw soap but perhaps you’re right. Before using the A-B soap, I was soaking all produce in about four handful of baking soda and a few cups of white vinegar. But I wasn’t sure if this would kill e.Coli, Salmonella or Listeria. With the soap, at least I could be sure.

          With regard to the DE you mentioned, I use this for my chicken coop so there’s always plenty. If you would, clarify for me how to use it to clean produce. Do I add it to water before placing the produce in it? Add it to the vinegar and baking soda? How to use?

          I never thought about using Hydrogen Peroxide on chicken! That’s a great idea! I have used it on travertine marble to get organic stains out of it and it works like a charm. I will try this on meats. Do you use it full-strength, I assume?

          Thanks for the very helpful tips!

  2. It figures – $500,000 exemption but convoluted rules to eliminate the exemption.

    Oh no. Does this suggest that I should stop buying the cheap ($1.49) 40# bags of Composted Cow Manure? Supposedly proper composting would kill the bad stuff – butt??????
    Just that my composting barrel is not that productive.

    • That $1.49 bag of cow manure is probably made by Monsanto, Novartis or some other big ag corp. I bought some a few years ago and it literally destroyed my garden, I had to put in a new one. It was loaded with oily, slimy stuff, not sure what it was but later read it’s some sort of petroleum product. Also, it contaminated my garden with all sorts of fungus, etc. that killed most of my garden that year and the next and the next. Buy only organic manure from family-owned companies you trust. The best kind of manure is, of course, the stuff you gather yourself or buy from a farmer. Most farmers will be happy to have you come and gather their cow, horse etc. manure. That’s where I get mine, that and the neighbor up the road with a horse. Good luck!

  3. We need to fire the FDA and kick those mf’s off of the planet forever!

  4. Except for the current problem with chicken, every single one of the last dozen-odd food-related health issues has come from “organic” produce. Just FYI.

  5. The sad repetition I see on this thread is infighting whether illness comes from organic… Yet this matters not… The only thing we can be SURE of is food borne illness comes from animals.. Spinach doesn’t develop e. Coli through soil… The exploitation of animals Im Organic and non organic farms is the direct cause… Forget this nonsense and fix the problem totally only consume flesh if 1. You killed it and butchered yourself or 2. You know the cowboy and the butcher… Better yet stop eating meat altogether (watch forks over knives to see all the health benefits of whole foods)

  6. Some of the bad produce came from Mexico. I doubt they have organic farms. I buy organic, but I do wash everything to be safe. Never had a problem.

  7. timothy brandt MD

    This is such an emotional issue because our mothers taught us to be so clean and because we feel so powerless when we don’t produce our own food. But: remember Americans eat 33 billion meals a yr and only three thousand deaths (usually in debilitated people) occur from food borne-illness. We kill 40,000 on our highways yearly.

    Most food related illness is due to Staph toxin: someone touches food that’s already been cooked and then allowed to cool slowly &/or saved before eating. That’s not the producer or processors’ fault.

    Unless the food has been grown inside, it’s probably got E.coli and Lord knows what else on it (birds gotta go somewhere), but luckily these are rarely pathogenic. You won’t get sick from eating it.

    In fact, you need to strengthen your immune system by exposing it to the bugs occasionally so you’ll be ready to fight off a future, larger exposure. Semper paratus, you know.

    • “In fact, you need to strengthen your immune system by exposing it to the bugs occasionally” I highly believe this to be true. While growing up, I did not get ill from drinking water from free flowing (often dry) streams, garden hose, throwing cow pies and horse piles, handling chickens and cleaning the coop, following the ‘3 second’ rule, cleaning fish and small game on the rinsed off (not sanitized) wood table, etc. Of course, common sense must be applied when dealing with the sick or nasty conditions.

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