Tag Archives: national

FSMA Listening Session with VAAFM and NEASDA

Food safety regulations will affect farmers and food processors throughout the country, and NOFA Vermont has been one of many voices calling for these regulations to be amended to be appropriate for organic and small-scale farms. We hope that concerned farmers, processors, and consumers will continue to make their voices heard, as well. This announcement comes from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM), in conjunction with the Northeast Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NEASDA), will host an open Listening Session on November 17th, 2014, to offer farmers and food processors an opportunity to provide comment on new supplemental rules proposed by the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Attendees will have an opportunity to pose questions to and seek clarification from a panel of subject matter experts from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that will be present at the meeting. The listening session will take place from 9:00am – 1:00pm in the Chase Center located at the Vermont Law School in South Royalton, VT. While oriented towards regional farmers and food processors specifically, this listening session is open to all interested parties from across the northeast.

FSMA, the most sweeping reform of our nation’s food safety laws in more than 70 years, was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. FSMA aims to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. On September 29th, 2014, the FDA released proposed supplemental rules to four of the seven existing rules, largely the result of an unprecedented level of comments and valuable input received from farmers and others directly affected by these regulations.

The November 17th, 2014, the Vermont-NEASDA hosted listening session will focus on the following three supplemental rules:

1. The Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce rule proposes enforceable safety standards for the production and harvesting of produce on farms. Changes include:

  • More flexible criteria for determining the safety of agricultural water for certain uses and a tiered approach to water testing.
  • A commitment to conduct extensive research on the safe use of raw manure in growing areas and complete a risk assessment. Pending those actions, FDA is deferring its decision on an appropriate time interval between the application of raw manure, the harvesting of a crop, and removing the nine-month interval originally proposed.
  • The FDA proposes eliminating the 45-day minimum application interval for composted manure that meets proposed microbial standards and application requirements.

2.  The Current Good Manufacturing Practices and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food rule would require makers of food to be sold in the United States, whether produced at a foreign- or domestic-based facility, to develop a formal plan for preventing food products from causing food borne illness.

3.  Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals would require facilities producing animal food (pet food, animal feed, and raw materials) to have written plans that identify hazards and specify steps to prevent those hazards. Changes include:

  • Requirements that human and animal food facilities, when appropriate, test products and the food facility’s environment, as well as implement certain supplier controls.

A full copy of the proposed supplemental rules is available for viewing through the following links:

All growers, manufacturers, and anyone interested in fresh produce safety and manufacturing of human and animal food are encouraged to comment on the supplemental proposed rules. The comment period will remain open for 75 days until December 15th, 2014. There are two ways to officially submit comments to FDA:

  1. Comment electronically at:
    1. Produce: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/09/29/2014-22447/standards-for-the-growing-harvesting-packing-and-holding-of-produce-for-human-consumption
    2. Human Food: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/09/29/2014-22446/current-good-manufacturing-practice-and-hazard-analysis-and-risk-based-preventive-controls-for-human
    3. Animal Feed: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/09/29/2014-22445/current-good-manufacturing-practice-and-hazard-analysis-and-risk-based-preventive-controls-for-food
  2. Written comments may be faxed to the FDA at 301-827-6870 or you may mail them to:

Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305)

Food and Drug Administration

5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061

Rockville, MD 20852

For more information about FSMA, visit http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/

Or contact:

Abbey Willard – abbey.willard@state.vt.us or 802-272-2885

Shelley Mehlenbacher – shelley.mehlenbacher@state.vt.us or 802-828-2421

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A “DARK” Act in Washington

Image from the Environmental Working Group

As Vermont becomes the first state to enact mandatory GMO labeling, those opposed to labeling are hoping to erase our victory with federal legislation. “Friends” of multinational food and biotech corporations in Congress have recently introduced a bill that would authorize the FDA to preempt and invalidate state-level labeling laws in Vermont and across the country. Opponents have dubbed the bill the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act. House Committees are expected to begin hearings on the bill this summer.

Also recently introduced are two congressional bills that would require nationwide mandatory at the federal level, along the same lines as Vermont’s labeling law. (We’re glad to report that Vermont’s congressional delegation has already signed on as cosponsors of these bills.) National consumer, agriculture, and environmental groups are busy organizing political action and public awareness campaigns in support of these bills and against the “forces of DARKness”.

It is going to be a hot time in Washington over the next year as these bills progress! We will be working with our members, our national allies, and our congressional delegation to insure that a strong and mandatory labeling law will be enacted nationally.

There are many websites with further information. We recommend Beyond Pesticides for a good overview.

Stay tuned!

[Post by Dave Rogers, NOFA Vermont Policy Advisor]

Vermont Senate Approves GMO Labeling Bill by a vote of 28-2 !!!

On April 16th the Vermont Senate voted 28-2 in favor of H.112, which would require the labeling of foods made with genetic engineering. This brings Vermont very close to final passage and enactment of the nation’s first GMO labeling law that does not include a multi-state “trigger, which would require indefinite postponement of its implementation.  

To visibly demonstrate to Governor Shumlin how important it is for him to sign the bill into law, the Coalition is calling for “honk and wave” events next Tuesday, April 22 (Earth Day) during morning “drive time” — not just in Vermont but all across the country. Our national partners and supporters are helping to organize this.

Use this online tool to set up and share your local honk and wave! Continue reading Vermont Senate Approves GMO Labeling Bill by a vote of 28-2 !!!

Hydroponics and Organics at the VOF Annual Meeting

Should hydroponic tomatoes be eligible for organic certification?
Should hydroponic tomatoes be eligible for organic certification? VOF producers can discuss this and other topics at the Annual Meeting.

It’s time once again for the annual Vermont Organic Farmers’ Producer meeting. This year the meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 29 from 10-2 at the Champlain Valley Expo’s Miller North conference room, as part of the Vermont Farm Show.

This annual coming together of organic farmers and processors is an important tradition that goes back to 1985, when farmers met for the first time to discuss the definition of organic farming. It’s been said that these meetings were sometimes contentious as growers disagreed about what practices and what inputs should be allowed for organic production. But overall, its seems people appreciated the frank and open discussions that challenged growers to improve their practices and pushed them to be more innovative.

I often hear growers comment today that they no longer attend the VOF meeting either because they feel powerless within the current system or that they believe there are no important issues left to discuss.  This couldn’t be further from the truth! The voices of organic farmers and processors are sought after on local and national levels and the opinions of organic producers carry significant weight.

And rest assured, there are still many important issues to discuss where growers’ opinions are needed and valued!

This year one of our long-time organic growers has brought one such topic up for discussion.  David Chapman, owner and operator of Long Wind Farm, is strongly opposed to the organic certification of hydroponic crops and is asking VOF farmers to vote on a resolution to prohibit the certification of organic hydroponic crops nationally.

Farmers and consumers alike can sign David’s petition outlining why hydroponics are not compatible with the organic standards.

VOF supports David’s petition and has included the following resolution to be discussed and voted on at our annual meeting.

Background: In 2010, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) passed a recommendation prohibiting crop production systems that eliminate soil, such as hydroponics and aeroponics, from obtaining organic certification.  In this recommendation the NOSB clarified that soil-plant ecology is at the foundation of organic farming.  Despite the fact that the Organic Food Production Act mandates that the NOSB advise the National Organic Program on implementing the organic regulations, this recommendation has yet to be accepted and added to the law.

Currently some certification agencies certify hydroponic operations as organic despite the NOSB recommendation and the NOP allows this practice to continue unrestricted.  Mexico, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and 24 European countries, (including Holland, England, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain) all prohibit hydroponic vegetable production to be sold as organic in their own countries. Historically, Vermont Organic Farmers has never certified hydroponic operations based on the idea that it is not compatible with organic farming principles.

Proposal: Vermont Organic Farmers demand that the National Organic Program accept the 2010 NOSB recommendation to prohibit soil-less hydroponic vegetable production as certified organic.

I look forward to discussing this and other topics with organic producers at the Vermont Farm Show on Wednesday, January 29th from 10-2 in Essex Junction.  Come join us for a lunch of delicious local and organic food, good conversation, and to make sure your opinion is heard.

Please RSVP for the meeting!

Can’t make it? Not a certified producer? Leave a comment here with your thoughts!

[By Nicole Dehne, VOF Program Coordinator]

Deadline to #fixFSMA extended to 11/22!

The deadline to comment on the new FSMA rules has been extended to 11/22!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!

Click here for our commenting guidelines and a succinct summary of the issues.

FDA Website Down – #fixFSMA mailing info

Update, 11/12: As of now, regulations.gov is running again. You can comment on the Produce Rule here and the Processing Rule here.

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 commenting portal is out of service.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!

Mail to:

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.)

YOUR comment is needed to #fixFSMA!

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.

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?

Continue reading YOUR comment is needed to #fixFSMA!

FSMA Comment Deadline Fast Approaching!

The deadline to comment on the Food Safety Modernization Act is Friday, 11/15 – less than two weeks away.

FSMA webinar slideToday, we held a webinar in partnership with UVM and the Vermont Agency of Ag to help farmers (and other concerned citizens) craft meaningful and powerful comments.

Click here to view the slides from that presentation. (PDF)

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.

How to submit a FSMA comment that counts: Webinar 11/4

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.

FSMA: Learn More and Speak Out! Webinar on 10/10

FSMA: Learn More and Speak Out! Webinar on 10/10

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.