The deadline for comments on the Food Safety Modernization Act has been extended to this Friday, 11/22, due to the issues with the FDA’s web comment portal last week. If you haven’t commented yet, now is your chance!
Second update, 11/13: We’ve confirmed that written comments need to be postmarked by 11/15, not arrive by then, so if you’d prefer to send something in the mail (or if the website goes down again), you have until Friday. Apologies for the confusion; the information has been updated below.
The FDA’s regulation portal continues to be inaccessible due to “technical difficulties” as the comment deadline for FSMA nears. We are advocating for an extension of the deadline, but cannot say whether it will happen.
You can mail your comment to the FDA, but mailed comments must
arrive at the FDA be postmarked by 11/15. That means to guarantee they’ll get there on time, you should mail them today!
Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305)
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.
Be sure to include the docket number in your comments: Produce Rule is
FDA-2011-N-0921 and the Facilities/Processing Rule is FDA-2011-N-0920. Also include your name and farm/business or organization affiliation, if any.
Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to make their voices heard!
(For more information on the Food Safety Modernization Act and how to write a comment, see our previous post.)
If you’re still wondering how FSMA might affect you, read on. The following article originally appeared in the Fall issue of NOFA Notes; we realized it was a good synopsis of the issues most affecting Vermont’s farmers, processors, and consumers, and so are reprinting it here. The deadline to submit comments on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is next Friday, November 15.
- View the slides from our recent webinar on how to craft a powerful comment.
- Read sample comments from UVM’s Vern Grubinger and others
- The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s FSMA webpage has in-depth coverage of the bill and what might affect your specific situation, as well as comment guidance and templates for consumers and farmers.
When Congress was debating the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2010, NOFA Vermont joined farm and food advocacy organizations around the country in a successful effort to amend the law to minimize FSMA’s impact on local food systems and family-scale fruit and vegetable farmers.
After all, numerous studies have found that the nation’s food safety “problems” are largely a result of large-scale production, processing, and distribution systems, and not caused by family-scale farms that serve local and regional markets.
President Obama signed FSMA in January, 2011 and handed it to the FDA to figure out how to implement the most sweeping food safety reforms in 70 years. We crossed our fingers. Would the FDA “get it right”? Would Vermont’s fruit and vegetable farmers be able to continue their work without worrying about unnecessary and costly new federal food safety regulations?
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the most sweeping reform of our nation’s food safety laws in more than 70 years. It was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011, but the specifics of the law are still being worked out, and the public comment period ends on November 15.
When finalized, these rules will affect many Vermont vegetable and fruit growers – large and small. Along with UVM Extension and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, NOFA Vermont is hosting a webinar for farmers and others that will highlight the elements of a strong comment, give examples of potential talking points for different types of farms (focusing on alternatives to the proposed rules), and walk you through how to submit comments on the Federal Register.
Space is limited. Click here to reserve your Webinar seat for November 4th from 12 -1 pm.
PLEASE NOTE: The purpose of the webinar is NOT to explain the details of FSMA, but to help you submit your comments. If you are not familiar with FSMA, please use one of the following resources to learn more beforehand.
Learn more about the Food Safety Modernization Act and how you can speak up for small farmers with this webinar on Thursday at 4:30 from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. This is intended especially for farmers and supporting organizations that need to get up to speed on the basics of the FSMA and how to take action.
There was a faint hope that Congress would get its act together and hammer out a Farm Bill before it expired on October 1. House Republicans’ insistence on draconian cuts to food assistance programs has prevented a joint Senate-House conference committee from even beginning discussions of how, and whether, to fund dozens of farm programs over the five years.
Many of these programs help Vermont’s farms (both conventional and organic) and support the development of our local food systems. Some fund training and development programs at NOFA and similar organizations, while others serve farmers directly.
Among those programs affected are the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, the Farmers Market Promotion Program, the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives, Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers, Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Rural Micro-entrepreneur Assistance Program, Specialty Crop Research Initiative, Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) and others. These programs will remain without funding unless and until Congress decides to restore funding in a new Farm Bill.
Unfortunately, the prospects for this happening any time soon dimmed further today, when Washington’s dysfunction led to the shutdown of much of the federal government. This includes Vermont offices of USDA programs that assist our farmers with funds and assistance everyday, implementing conservation practices, providing operating loans, disaster recovery and business services. All work at Vermont’s NRCS offices and Federal Farm Service Agency have been suspended until further notice. (Don’t bother calling — no one is there.)
Let us hope that sanity will return to Washington soon. There is too much work to be done and too many people whose lives and livelihoods are being harmed — including those of Vermont’s farmers.
For more details about how specific programs will (or will not) continue, take a look at this post from the National Farmers Union.
[Post by Dave Rogers, NOFA-VT Policy Advisor]
The FDA has recently completed its publication of proposed food safety rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). They would require many of Vermont’s farmers and food processors to adopt new, and perhaps costly, equipment and practices designed to improve the safety of fresh produce and processed foods.
The public has until November 15 to submit comments and recommendations to the FDA, which will be considered in developing final rules that will likely take effect in the next several years.
It is important for every farmer and food processor to learn about these proposed rules and determine how they would affect their businesses. Farm and food advocacy organizations around the country have prepared summaries of the rules and information about how to submit comments to the FDA. (See links below.) In the weeks ahead, NOFA Vermont will be making additional information available – join our mailing list for the latest updates.
Upcoming opportunities to learn more and make your voice heard:
- August 8: What Farmers Need to Know: Commenting on the Food Safety Modernization Act at the University of New Hampshire Extension office in North Haverhill, NH.
- August 13: Free Webinar on FMSA for New England Food Producers, Buyers, and More
- August 20: Three-hour FDA Listening Session on FSMA at Dartmouth College. This will be an excellent opportunity to make comments and ask questions directly of FDA officials.
For more information about FSMA and how it might affect you:
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (extensive background and talking points)
- New England Farmers Union (slightly shorter)
- The Produce Safety Alliance has good general information on produce safety and the FSMA and, they have hosted recorded Question and Answer sessions with the FDA on specific items of concern. If you don’t want to read through all these, download the sessions and listen while working.
- The NHVBGA has created a website for growers to discuss FSMA.
- The Summer 2013 issue of the Natural Farmer is devoted to FSMA and has a number of excellent articles and talking points.
- The FDA has new website on FSMA and is constantly adding new resources.
Submit your comments to the FDA.
Quantity Counts! The more smaller-scale and diversified farmers they hear from, the better. To submit comments:
[by Dave Rogers, NOFA-VT Policy Advisor]