Legislators express concern over produce FSMA rules

Bicameral, bipartisan group of 75 legislators write FDA stating law could impose unintended consequences to agriculture.

A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers are requesting that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issue a second draft of regulations for public comment before issuing final Food Safety Modernization rules.

The bipartisan coalition led by Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), and Reps. Joe Courtney (D., Conn.), Chris Gibson (R., N.Y.) and Annie Kuster (D., N.H.) sent a letter co-signed by 75 members of Congress, including 42 Republicans and 33 Democrats or Independents, expressing concerns about the impact of proposed rules on farmers and businesses that an additional comment period could help alleviate.

“Despite your agency’s efforts to engage with stakeholders during the rulemaking process, we remain concerned about the ambiguity surrounding many aspects of these proposed rules,” the letter said.

The lawmakers continued, “We believe the rules as currently proposed would result in a multitude of unintended consequences that would be severely detrimental to national, regional and local agriculture. By seeking additional input through second proposed rules for public comment before final rules, we believe that producers’ concerns can be addressed and unintended consequences can be greatly mitigated.”

The FDA recently issued two proposed rules implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a 2011 law that overhauled food safety laws to increase the safety of our food supply. The rules address preventative controls for human food and standards for the growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce for human consumption. 

As proposed, the 1,200-page rules have left food producers and processors across the country concerned about a number of issues surrounding facility compliance, environmental standards, among others.

In the letter, the legislators identified that food producers and processors in their states were concerned with a number of issues, including:

  • The testing frequency required for certain agricultural waters;
  • Restrictions placed on the usage of biological soil amendments;
  • Compliance issues at mixed-use facilities;
  • New requirements that conflict with existing conservation and environmental standards and practices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture;
  • The limiting definitions used in the rule for “farm,” “small business” and “very small business”; and
  • The lack of consideration of the complexity of various farm ownership entities. 

The comment period for this portion of the FSMA overhaul ended Nov. 22 after being extended three times.

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