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 deadline to comment on the Food Safety Modernization Act is Friday, 11/15 – less than two weeks away.
The future of Vermont’s food system will be changed by this bill! Please take the time to make your voice heard.
To learn more about FSMA and its potential impact, take a look at our previous posts on the subject. We also recommend the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s easy-to-understand “toolkit” of information.
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.
When the FDA team responsible for implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) came to New Hampshire and Vermont last week, they got an earful — and an education. At an August 20th Listening Session at Dartmouth College, about two hundred vegetable and fruit farmers, food processors, local food advocates, and consumers showed up to tell the visitors from inside the Beltway of the many ways in which the FDA’s proposals for new food safety regulations would affect them. Farmers and others, including NOFA Vermont’s Fruit and Vegetable Technical Assistance Advisor Lynda Prim, stood in line for an hour or more for the chance to detail increased production costs, harms to the environment, and economic disincentives, especially on smaller-scale operations.
Those who presented remarks voiced a number of specific concerns. Many pointed out that the FDA’s proposed requirement that farmers test irrigation water weekly was unnecessary, impractical, and would increase costs significantly. Others pointed out negative consequences on wildlife and biodiversity on farms.
Lynda Prim joined a number of organic farmers present in voicing concern about conflicts between proposed FSMA requirements and the National Organic Program rules, despite the fact that the FDA is explicitly directed to avoid such conflicts. For instance, proposed requirements for waiting periods before crops can be harvested after field applications of manures (270 days) and compost (45 days) greatly exceed, and are in direct conflict with, such waiting periods required by the National Organic Program. Additionally, these extended waiting periods are impractical in New England’s short growing season, and would likely increase the use of chemical fertilizers on non-organic farms. Farmers’ incomes and the environment would be negatively affected.
Many spoke of how increased compliance costs — estimated by the FDA to run to thousands of dollars annually on even small-scale operations — would either force them to leave farming entirely or significantly damage opportunities for farm expansion and new farm enterprises. Such specific, informed and heartfelt criticisms of the proposed regulations continued for over two hours straight.
Later that day and the next, the FDA team visited local farms and food businesses, including the Mad River Food Hub and Hartshorn Farm in Waitsfield, and the Intervale Farm in Burlington. They got a first-hand look at the diversity of farming practices, production systems, distribution and marketing innovations that are critical to the continued development of our emerging local food economy in the region. (You can see their impressions of the visit on the FDA’s blog.)
Throughout their visit, the members of the FDA team listened intently. They had a lot of questions and asked for advice and recommendations. More than once, Michael Taylor, the FDA Deputy Commissioner who led the team, indicated that he wanted to make sure that the vigor of local farms and the local food economy would not be derailed by burdensome and unnecessary food safety regulations. We agree, and hope to see his statements translated into action when the final regulations are published next year.
Our visitors are now back at their desks in D.C.. But farmers, organizations, consumers and businesses throughout the country have until November 15 to submit their own written comments expressing their concerns about proposed regulations, as well as their recommendations for improving them. The FDA is, by law, required to read and consider every one of these written comments before it develops and publishes its final food safety regulations in the next year or so. It’s up to all of us to make sure it’s a highly educational experience for them.
More information about the proposed rules and how to submit your own comments can be found in our earlier post on the the FSMA. NOFA Vermont and Vermont Organic Farmers are working on an official comment of our own; stay tuned to learn more.
[by Dave Rogers, NOFA Vermont 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]
There are a number of topics in local, state, and national legislature that we’re involved in right now, including the GMO labeling bill (which needs your support right now!), the Addison County Natural Gas Pipeline project, the national Food Safety Modernization Act, and working to add compost to the list of agricultural products that are exempt from the state sales tax. Keep reading to learn more! Continue reading NOFA Advocacy Update