Congress may vote on HR 2749, The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, as early as this week. Equal Exchange, a member of the National Organic Coalition, has been working hard with other allies to make amendments to the bill before it is voted upon in Congress this week. Although many pieces of the legislation have been improved through this process, there are still concerns.
In particular, the bill includes a $500 annual inspection fee for all farmers that do processing on their farms. This means that large corporate farms (that have a far greater impact on consumer food safety) and small family farms will be responsible for paying the same inspection fee. We are particularly worried that charging all producers a $500 fee, regardless of their impact on food safety concerns, their size, or the nature of their processing, will place an undue hardship on many of the small coffee farmers with whom we work.
Many farmers have a small depulper on their farm which is used to take the pulp off the coffee cherry after it has been picked. The coffee is then fermented, washed and dried before it is sent to a dry mill to have the final layer of chaff removed prior to export. It is unclear whether these farmers will be subject to this processing fee, but there is no doubt that many small-scale coffee farmers in Latin America, Asia, and Africa will not be able to afford this additional expense. (Many small coffee farmers make less than $1000 year and as it is they already must pay the costs of organic certification, Fair Trade certification, and any other additional certifications that their co-op uses. )
Below is a press release from the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union which discusses some of the concerns about the current version of the Food Safety Bill and further information taken from materials written by Brian Snyder, Executive Director of PASA. We are asking for people to call their representatives today and tomorrow to urge them not to pass a Food Safety bill which will adversely impact organic agriculture and small farmers.
Thanks for your concern.
For Immediate Release: July 23, 2009
Further Information: Mick McAllister (303.283.3537)
Congress About to Hand Over “Food Safety” to Agri-business
Concerned by the sudden rush to pass the Food Safety bill (HR 2749), Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President Kent Peppler sent a message to the congressional delegation from Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming: “Now just a dang minute!” (more…)
Read Full Post »