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HR 875 Rumors Will Destroy Our Credibility

by: Jill Richardson

Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 17:08:26 PM PDT

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H.R.875 internet rumors are out of control. Yesterday Marion Nestle finally spoke up with the truth. The very same truth that some of us have been shouting at the top of our lungs for a full month.

Let me tell you a story. A friend of mine lost her husband to drug side effects from Zoloft. He committed suicide. Prior to taking the drug he wasn't depressed. He had started a new job and was having some anxiety. He went in to see the doctor for insomnia (due to anxiety) and left with a sample pack of Zoloft. Five weeks later, he was dead.

My friend is incredibly courageous and she has testified before Congress to advocate for reforms that would make people taking prescription drugs more aware of side effect risks. After her testimony, she told me, a lobbyist for the drug companies went to every single legislator on the committee and told them that she was a Scientologist. Scientologists, nutty bunch that they are, oppose antidepressants. My friend is NOT a Scientologist, she's a grieving wife. But her position was discredited because a bunch of wackos took on her issue and ran with it in all the wrong directions. She had to go back and clean up the damage, explaining she wasn't a Scientologist and hoping everyone would believe her.

THAT is what is happening to us here. We've got a group of nuts out there spreading lies (and some well-meaning, unsuspecting people have believed those lies), and it will end up only discrediting us. Now when I write a letter to a legislator about the food safety reforms that are upcoming, I have to wonder if my letter will get tossed in with the crazy pile.

Furthermore, check out this article by Philip Brasher. He makes it sound as if we are asking the nation to choose between food safety and organics. That's not the case at all.

We are FOR food safety. We are FOR food safety laws that will prevent the next Peanut Corporation of America from killing people, sickening people, and causing enormous economic fallout. But we also recognize that for the 2-3% of food bought directly from farmers, the traceability mechanism is already in place and does not need to be augmented by the government. And when a farmer eats the food he or she grows, that's a mechanism of food safety enforcement stronger than any law the government can pass. Of course we ask that the government keep that in mind, but we're not standing as a roadblock to fixing our nation's food safety as a whole. We support that.

Jill Richardson :: HR 875 Rumors Will Destroy Our Credibility
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Thank you soooo much for this! (4.00 / 3)
It's been weird to see some farming advocates join forces with extreme anti-government (and anti-food-safety) types.

I unknowingly participated (4.00 / 3)
in a blog post claiming that DeLauro's husband works for Monsanto (he doesn't) and that her law would affect kiddie lemonade stands (it wouldn't). - an apology/setting the record straight diary is in the works as we speak.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
The thing with these bills is that (4.00 / 2)
we really all need to read them, then re-read them, then read them again, then let them percolate, then read them again. These things can be so conveluted that it can be difficult to decifer who's impacted and who isn't, at least immediately.

While HR 875 doesn't require that farms register, it would, if passed, place farms under federal authority for inspection. Small farms, unless some regulator gets a burr under his/her saddle, aren't going to be investigated unless there's a food bourne disease outbreak, and then if the person who got sick ate some of your food, you're going to be investigated, tested, etc..

Guess what people? Even without HR 875, if you sold someone something, and they got sick, especially if more than one person who bought your produce got sick, YOU'RE GOING TO BE INSPECTED. That's the way being in business works. If you are going to operate a farm, and one of your clients/customers gets sick, if you sold them something they could eat, you are part of the epidemiological investigation.

On the food, home grown food, small farming etc. fronts, there are a lot of issues to keep an eye on, and there could be some problems with HR 875, but as a small farmer, I can think of more pressing regulatory measures than this particular bill. Although I will continue to watch it....

Anyway, just my two bits.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

Poorly Written Bill (4.00 / 1)
The problem is that HR 875 is poorly written, and the language is ripe for all sorts of interpretations. If it causes so much confusion why not place some of the blame on the author of the bill?

Members of Congress have reading skills, access to staff and to legal counsel - there is no excuse. I would like to see members of Congress start to take some responsibility for their mistakes. How about an apology from Rep. DeLauro for wasting all of our time?

Her staff is currently meeting with organic (4.00 / 1)
farmer groups to propose a list of amendments to clarify the intent of the bill.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Caveat: I don't know enough to say one way or another... (0.00 / 0)
....but in following the links to the "Myths" article, I did find a fairly convincing disagreement with the rebuttal to the scare about the bill (etc., etc. and so forth ;-).

 I'm posting it merely in the interest of discussion:

 "ecofarmer wrote:
a small farm perspective
I'll not do my whole breakdown of the bill from the pov of a small farm, if you want to see the details you can look at my blog here http://www.robertsroostecofarm... and here http://www.robertsroostecofarm... While your analysis of the rumors is accurate as far as it goes, you leave out the implications this bill has for small farmers (many of whom are organic and who make up the bulk of the farmers market vendors). Because these small farmers process their produce on farm they become "Catagory 3 or 4 Food Establishments" and subject to the full range of regulation proposed by this bill. As for NAIS you are correct again in stating that the bill doesn't implement it. It does require the director to develop a traceability system from production through retail sales of ALL food. Might not be NAIS, but it will be similar and it will cover tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, and all other food as well. The bill is too broad, to focused on the problems in the large scale commercial system, to fit the small scale, local, sustainable food production that is a key part of the organic and farmers market movement. Fix the system, but do it in a way that it doesn't destroy the small farm movement. "

From this site:

Actually, as far as tracability goes (0.00 / 0)
I would argue that small farms selling directly to customers can provide 'farm to fork' tracability much more easily than can the national/international producers and processors.

Raising and packaging all of my own produce, eggs, and emu meat (if I ever have enough of it to sell), goat meat, etc. I already am involved in every step of the production chain from the time an egg hits the ground, or I take an animal to the slaughter house, get the meat back and sell it to a customer. Even better is the model in which I have a customer or customers put their name(s) on an animal when it's alive. Then the farm to fork tracability goes directly from me to a couple of people only in the case of a goat, or maybe 4-5 people in the case of a steer. Short chains of custody make for easy record keeping.

Same for country of origin labeling. I produce it, I harvest it, I sell it. Even placing produce in a large retail venue where COOL is mandatory, I can show a chain of custody easily. Not so for the big processors and fabricators of beef and to a lesser extent, pork. Especially the companies that grind meats sourced from many different suppliers. And God help those companies processing greens from multiple farms, packaging it up and then shipping the packages to the four corners of the country.

That's where our system, the artisinal system, is actually more efficient than the big guys who supposedly have the 'economies of scale'.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

[ Parent ]
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