Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., was recognized during the farm bill debate in a “colloquy," or a "high-level serious discussion" according to one online definition.
So Hastings didn’t exactly address the farm bill. In his off-topic colloquy (I had erroneously referred to this as a soliloquy in an earlier version of this blog: ouch!), he talked about food safety and rising concerns from tree fruit growers about FDA food safety regulations.
Hastings – and his tree fruit industry supporters in Washington state – hope the Food and Drug Administration will hear his pleas, delivered on the House floor on June 18.
He started by saying that lettuce and apples are grown in completely different ways.
“For one thing, lettuce is grown in the grown and apples in the trees; that’s obvious,” he said. “It only makes sense that these produce items are evaluated on how susceptible they may be to food safety risks and subjected to regulations that reflect both the risk and the way they are grown.”
“I’m concerned that the current regulations would subject all growers of fresh produce to the same requirements and restrictions that are nearly impossible to meet for tree fruit growers in my district. There has never been a known food safety problem with fresh apples and yet if implemented these regulations risk putting our growers out of business and pushing apple production overseas.”
“Would the chairman (Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.) agree that the FDA should evaluate the risk of individual agricultural commodities based on the best available science and consider the growing methods and conditions of these products when developing regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act for the safe production, harvesting, handling and packing of our fresh fruits and vegetables? I yield back to the chair." Hastings said.
Lucas responded that he recognized Hastings’ concerns about the “one size fits all” approach of the FDA. “I share his belief that if FDA is going to be given the task of telling farmers how to farm, it should do so after a thorough examination of the risk of different types of fruits and vegetables and then based on the best available science.. …..
“I encourage FDA to reevaluate the proposed regulations and make the necessary revisions,” Lucas concluded.
It will be hard enough to pass a farm bill. Getting exactly the preferred food safety regulations out of the FDA for the tree fruit industry will even be a tougher task.
For Hastings and his tree fruit industry supporters, the colloquy was eerily similar to the “to be or not to be” verse by Shakespeare for Hamlet. Can apple growers exist after the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune from the FDA?
A little dramatic, true. But Hastings has made his point. Time will tell if the FDA is listening .