Re: Preventive Controls Rule: FDA-2011-N-0920, Produce Standards Rule: FDA-2011-N-0921
I am a farmers market manager in a low-income neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago writing because I am concerned about the impact that FDA’s proposed FSMA rules will have on the ability of low-income communities served by farmers markets to continue to purchase fresh food. I ask you to ensure that new regulations do not put family farms out of business, harm farmers’ soil, water, and wildlife conservation efforts, or shut down the growth of local and regional healthy food systems!
If local farms went out of business due to the rules, it would severely limit underserved communities access to fresh foods. I manage the 61st Street Farmers Market in Chicago (Woodlawn community). Nearly 70% of low-income shoppers at the market that use an EBT/SNAP card purchase ALL of their fresh produce from local, family farmers at the market. Because the neighborhood is a food desert, there are no large grocery stores or other outlets to purchase fresh produce. If farmers are unable to come to market due to the proposed rules, residents will have no source of produce (and farmers no source of income).
I urge you to modify the rules so that they:
Allow farmers to use sustainable farming practices, including those already allowed and encouraged by existing federal organic standards and conservation programs. Specifically, FDA must not exceed the strict standards for the use of manure and compost used in certified organic production and regulated by the National Organic Program.
Ensure that diversified and innovative farms, particularly those pioneering models for increased access to healthy, local foods, continue to grow and thrive without being stifled. Specifically, FDA needs to clarify two key definitions: first, as Congress required, FDA must affirm that farmers markets, CSAs, roadside stands, and other direct-to-consumer vendors fall under the definition of a “retail food establishment” and are therefore not facilities subject to additional regulation. Second, FDA should adopt at least the $1,000,000 threshold for a very small business and base it on the value of ‘regulated product,’ not ‘all food,’ to ensure smaller farms and businesses (like food hubs) fall under the scale-appropriate requirements and aren’t subject to high cost, industrial-scale regulation.