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Amendment to food-safety bill aimed at helping small farmers

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Small farmers are fearful that Senate Bill 510 will hurt their profit margins as it imposes tougher restrictions on farms.
Small farmers are fearful that Senate Bill 510 will hurt their profit margins as it imposes tougher restrictions on farms.

Senate Bill 510 aims to protect consumers by mandating better safeguards to protect the nation's food supply. Small farmers, however, are fearful that they may be lumped in with larger agribusinesses that face increased inspection and reporting requirements if the bill passes.

Small farmers are concerned that the bill will cool down the burgeoning market for locally-produced produce – an area in which farmers have seen massive growth in sales over the past few years. In response to such fears, Senators Kay Hagan and Jon Tester are pushing for an amendment to the bill, one that more clearly shields small farmers from the proposed orders. Most contaminations result from large scale farms, prompting the senators to set a dividing line between small and large farms at $500,000 in gross income.

Local farmers praised the senators for their commitment to ensuring that small farms continue to operate without hefty regulations. Cheryl Ferguson, owner of Plum Granny Farm in Stokes County, North Carolina, affirmed that small farmers should be excused from the legislation, noting that larger farms are most often responsible for contamination. Ferguson told the Winston-Salem Journal that her farm doesn't "take our products and comingle them with some other farm." Ferguson says she has the "ultimate in traceability" because she knows exactly where all her produce is at all times.

Debate on the bill will most likely take some time, but many farmers say that farm life will continue as usual in the interim. 

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