Federal regulators to revise important food safety rules after Pingree and farmers complained publicly in Maine

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

December 20th, 2013 

chellie-pingree-in-fieldFederal regulators made a major announcement which pleased the Maine Organic Farmers association about new food safety rules, withdrawing proposed regulations that Congresswoman Chellie Pingree had said would threaten small farmers around the country. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said they would spend the winter making “significant changes” to the proposed rules and release new regulations for comment next summer.

“This is a major victory for farmers in Maine and across the country,” said Pingree. “The one-size-fits-all approach the FDA was pursuing was overkill for thousands of small farmers and would have put many of them out of business. The size of the regulation just didn’t match the size of the risk.”

The FDA has agreed to withdraw proposed rules about water quality testing, standards for using manure as compost and regulations affecting mixed-use facilities. New rules will be proposed early next summer followed by a comment period.

Pingree said she’s reserving judgment until the new rules come out, but said the FDA’s announcement is a hopeful sign.

“We will have to wait and see what the rules look like next summer, but it’s clear the FDA has heard what we’ve been saying and took itseriously,” said Pingree. “The farmers and consumers around the country who made their voices heard on this issue deserve a lot of credit for today’s announcement.”

In a statement announcing the changes, the FDA said “we have learned a great deal, and our thinking has evolved” on food safety regulations. (The FDA’s statement can be found here: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm379397.htm)

Pingree helped organized a public hearing in Augusta last summer in which over 150 farmers and producers turned out to urge top FDA officials not to follow through with rules that would cripple smaller operations. Pingree has been a strong proponent of making sure the voices of small farmers were heard during this process.

The FDA had estimated that a medium-sized farm with annual gross sales of $250,000 to $500,000 would spend $13,000 a year in compliance costs. For farms with sales over $500,000 that cost jumps to over $30,000 a year.

Pingree has been involved in farming and farm policy in Maine for forty years and currently owns a farm on the island of North Haven where she raises a variety of vegetables as well as chicken, turkeys, pigs and goats. See photo above.