Ag officials say new FDA rules not ready for prime time - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Ag officials say new FDA rules not ready for prime time

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When it comes to farming, food safety is a paramount concern -- which is why Congress passed sweeping new reforms in 2011 called the Food Safety Modernization Act.
"This is the most significant rewrite of food safety rules in 70 years and we want to make sure our producers and entrepreneurs know what is expected of them and its reasonable... ...and that we protect consumer health," said Vermont Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross.

But there is a problem. It seems the new act is raising more questions than answers.  One example why the draft measure won't work for Vermont farmers: "The rule that deals with manure application -- and that you can't harvest product for human consumption till nine months after raw manure has been applied to the field -- is a real problem. We have been doing that in New England for decades -- centuries."

Reporter Judy Simpson: We don't have that kind of growing season.
Chuck Ross: That's right -- that is more than one growing season.

The FDA has called for another comment period to hear from agriculture officials and farmers before they write a second draft.

At the Intervale in Burlington there are many concerns about the proposed new rules -- most importantly when it comes to new regulations -- one size does not fit all. In Vermont you have a lot of small operations and most of them are 20 acres and under.  They grow many different crops from arugula to zucchini, and they are marketing directly to their local communities.

"I think my primary concern with the Food Safety Modernization Act is that a lot of the overall structure of the act and the specifics of it are not aimed at or appropriate for the scale and diversity of vegetable operations we have in Vermont, so they may be totally appropriate for large western wholesale farms that have a mono crop culture and are shipping things to large wholesalers through shipping chains," said Andy Jones with the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association.

Officials throughout New England are working with the FDA trying to help them understand local concerns, but they have  yet to see a written response. "So when you ask how is this going to effect Vermont farmers, I can't answer that because I haven't seen a second draft. I can tell you the first draft does not work," Ross said.

The good news is the FDA is listening. Ross and others say they need a detailed response so everyone from farmers to state officials get the rules right to begin with.

The FDA is required to have those new rules finalized by June 30th 2015.

Click here for more information on the Food Safety Modernization Act

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