With food sourcing on the brain (even more than usual!) in the run-up to Thanksgiving, we thought we’d call to your attention two bits of legislation being debated in Washington. No matter which way these rules go, they stand to impact how and from whom we source our food.
First up, and possibly being voted on today, S.510, the Food Safety and Modernization Act, which, if passed, will strengthen efforts by the FDA to prevent food-borne illness. But at issue for sustainable food advocates is whether a one-size-fits-all approach to these food safety regulations is a good fit for small farms.
This brief from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition outlines a big picture definition of food safety—definitely worth a read. Many members of this coalition and others support the bill if it includes the Manager’s Amendment and the Tester Amendment, and advocate sending a message or calling your senator to let them know how you feel.
Okay, next? This one’s about cowboys, corporations, and competition. A recent NPR story highlighted the proposed tightening of existing regulations on meatpackers. Ranchers who sell to these meatpackers say that as the industry has become dominated by four companies, these companies have dictated (low) prices for cattle, forcing many ranchers out of business while their own profits soar.
The rule that the USDA is proposing to enforce is known as the Packers and Stockyards Act, overseen by Grain Inspections, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) which aims to maintain competitive, transparent bidding in the livestock business.
At Civil Eats last month, Haven Borque talked to livestock farmers and advocates to explain why this is important—from the perspective of rural food producers and eaters everywhere. Basically, if GIPSA isn’t better enforced, we risk having the beef market dictated by multinationals. If the pork and chicken industries are any indication, this is not a trend to support.
The comment period for this rule is open until Monday, November 22. If we want to encourage fair competition in agriculture that nurtures a robust rural economy and higher quality meat, read a little more about the rule here and let the USDA know you’re in favor of enacting and enforcing GIPSA by submitting a comment to the USDA.