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Published May 06, 2010, 12:00 AM

Legislation threat to farmers market

As the warmer weather approaches, most people look forward to attending their local farmers markets to purchase fresh, local foods grown by people from within their own communities. The Farmers Market in Grand Forks is a highlight of our family’s weekend in the summer months.

By: Heidi Demars, Grand Forks

As the warmer weather approaches, most people look forward to attending their local farmers markets to purchase fresh, local foods grown by people from within their own communities. The Farmers Market in Grand Forks is a highlight of our family’s weekend in the summer months.

But what many people don’t know is that these local growers and producers may be threatened by the pending food legislation S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act. Food contamination in recent years – whether in spinach, peppers or peanuts – occurred in industrialized food supply chains that span national and even international boundaries, not in local food systems. Food safety is an absolute priority shared by many, but the bill would place unnecessary costs and recordkeeping on local, small-scale producers.

For example, someone selling locally grown berries to a farmers market could pay the same regulation fees as a large corporation such as Del Monte. These burdens could be astronomical and crippling for a small-scale business.

The food safety problems in this system can and should be addressed without harming the local food systems that provide an alternative for consumers. The bill addresses many issues that are important. It would improve traceability of the food source and would establish new hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls for these facilities.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has introduced an amendment that would exempt these smaller operations so they can continue to provide fresh, wholesome foods to a vibrant and growing local foods movement. Call or write your senators to show your support for this amendment.

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