New law may be harmful to small farms

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) A new law regarding food safety regulations may be a detriment to smaller farms.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA, was signed into law in 2011 by President Obama in an effort to help regulate food safety. It’s the first major update of federal food safety laws since 1938.

It allows the FDA to prevent food safety problems, detect and resolve these issues, but some farmers are concerned small farms may take the heat when it comes to implementing these new rules.

The FDA rules that will put the new law into practice are still in a proposed form, meaning they are still up for public comment.

Tuesday night, The Western Colorado Congress hosted a public forum to help the community to know more about the implications of the proposed FDA regulations.

Scott Washkowiak is a Palisade farmer. Like many small farm owners, he and his wife work very hard running their farm Field to Fork.

“It's really long and drawn out, a lot of lawyer talk I like to call it, and it's something that everyone needs to understand," said Washkowiak.

Steve Warshawer, a Sante Fe farmer and Produce Safety Expert has read and analyzed the 1,000 page regulation and understands the potential impact. He spoke at the event and says every farmer should be concerned when it comes to these new rules.

“Local and regional and direct market farmers especially, have been told, don't worry, you're exempt, well if the exemptions don't work, that's not much of a source of relief," said Warshawer.

According to the FSMA, if a farm grosses under $500,000 then they are exempt from the new FDA regulations, but Warshawer says there are loose ends in the proposed FDA regulations that need to be tightened up.

“The rules as drafted don't do a very good job of explaining how you prove that you're exempt, how you sustain your exemption in the face of some potential threat or how you cover it in the event that it might be lost for some reason," said Warshawer.

Some of the concerns are cost of compliance, confusing definitions, manure and compost and costly water testing standards.

And that is why dozens of Western Slope Farmers attended tonight's forum; to understand more about the proposed rules, form an opinion and share it with the FDA while they are still taking public comments.

“Our goal in intervening as commenters in the Food Safety Modernization Act rule making process is to be sure that if they make rules they work for all farmers," said Warshawer.

The deadline for the FDA public comments regarding the Food Safety Modernization Act is November 15th.

If you missed tonight's public forum, the Western Colorado Congress will be hosting two more food safety forums in Western Colorado on Wednesday October 30th, one in Ridgway and Delta. The hours for the Ridgway public forum are 7:00- 8:30 p.m. located at the Ridgway Community Center, 201 North Railroad. The Delta public forum will be from 3:00- 4:00 p.m. at Westminster Hall at 4th and Meeker.

You can also submit a public comment to the FDA online through the Western Colorado Congress’s website or you can stop by their office located at 134 North Sixth Street n Grand Junction.

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