Senate bill could hurt area farms

Published 1:50 pm Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Some Polk officials cautioned county commissioners last week that proposed U.S. Senate Bill 510 could put some Polk County farmers out of business.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (Senate Bill 510) currently being proposed would amend the federal food, drug and cosmetic act. It would give the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to inspect records related to food.

The amendment has been proposed in a time when foods have been recalled because of sickness and deaths, most recently eggs, spinach and tomatoes.

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Some officials have expressed concerned that it could result in high inspection fees for small farmers.

Polk County commissioners last week approved sending a letter to legislators in response to the bill. The letter says that Polk County supports the concern for food safety, but the implementation of any program should have special provisions for the small farmers who cannot afford large corporation fees for the food safety program. (See page 4 for the full letter.)

We strongly encourage that any implementation for small farms be carried out at the local level through local agencies and resource specialists, states Polk Countys letter.

Commissioners heard from Polk County Agricultural Economic Development Director Lynn Sprague, who recommended they send the letter. Polk County Cooperative Extension Director John Vining and residents David Weiss, Emily Clark, Lisa Krolack and Eric Gass also spoke on the subject.

Sprague said the 200-page bill addresses food safety and said international food sources do need control. He said the bill is immense and approaches agriculture as a uniform business.

I dont think anyone should be against food safety, Sprague said, but added that the bill could mean $600 inspection fees for small farmers.

Vining said some of the proposals would put a high percentage of our farmers out of business, including those that would require well water be used for irrigation.

Vining said he doesnt know what the answer is because the country has to have food safety and the intention is good, but what the government has come up with is just not practical.

Some people mentioned a resolution recently adopted by Macon County, which opposed the bill and suggested that small farmers be exempt from the regulations.

Polk commissioners said at this point they are comfortable approving the letter and researching the bill to see if other measures need to be taken later.

Residents and Polk officials urged residents to contact legislators regarding any concerns they have with the bill.

The bill was sponsored by Illinois Senator Richard Durbin N.C. Senator Richard Burr is a co-sponsor.