Food safety debate: Transcripts of the final chapter - The Packer

Food safety debate: Transcripts of the final chapter

12/22/2010 09:44:35 AM
Tom Karst

This legislation is the product of a flawed process. It will lead to huge regulatory burdens on our Nation's farmers and ranchers. It will raise the cost of food for our consumers, and it contains very little that will actually contribute to the goal of food safety. It gives the Food and Drug Administration lots of additional authorities with no accountability. In fact, with the inclusion of the so-called Tester amendment, some argue that it is a step backwards.

Now, my concerns about the legislation are not limited to the unforgivable process. There are serious public policy concerns as well. The Tester amendment is an illustrative example. Intended to shield small and local producers from the burdens of the new food safety law, it is opposed by virtually all of the major organizations representing farmers and ranchers. Normally, these groups would be expected to support a provision that sought to protect their farmers and ranchers. But they oppose the Tester amendment and any legislation that contains it because it adds to the layers of food safety regulation by creating yet another tier of regulatory standards that will only confuse our consumers.

Further, by exempting small domestic companies from Federal standards, I fear, and this is a legitimate fear, that we will be required to exempt similarly sized companies in developing countries from our standards. This approach does not make food safer. It eliminates important consumer protection and puts our citizens at increased risk.

With respect to the Tester amendment, I question the value of any law that is so onerous to an industry that Senators believe segments of that industry should be excluded from it. It would be wise to reconsider the entire legislative approach.

Now, there are other problems as well in the bill. New regulation authority for food processing facilities will create what amounts to a Federal license to be in the food business. Registration of food processing facilities was originally envisioned as a commonsense way to help FDA identify facilities under the Bioterrorism Act of 2002. This bill turns it into a license to operate, making it unlawful to sell food without a registration license, and allowing FDA to suspend the company's registration.

This is the type of government intrusion into commerce that Americans rejected in early November of this year.

Another provision of particular concern would mandate the Food and Drug Administration to set on-farm production performance standards. For the first time, we'd have the Federal Government prescribing how our farmers grow crops. Farming, the growing of crops and the raising of livestock, is the first organized activity pursued by man. We've been doing it for a long time, and we've been doing it without the FDA on the farm.

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