FOX47 NEWS - New Food Safety Rules Could Impact Famers

Jeff Angileri
May 10, 2009, 6:06 PM

Fresh produce is a given at farmer's markets in Wisconsin, but new regulations could make it harder for growers to bring those fruits and vegetables to the table.

With recent salmonella outbreaks in peanuts, spinach, and alfalfa sprouts, congress is taking action to prevent food-borne illnesses.

It's called the Food Safety Modernization Act (H.R. 875). It's not even law yet, and it's already stirring controversy.

The bill would create an administration to oversee food production in the U.S. Its decisions could impact every aspect of farming, from planting the seeds to selling the final product.

Organic farmer Christa Barfknecht already goes to great lengths to make sure her food is safe.

All of our water is tested and checked. Fertilizers that we use are certified organic. Manure is aged and we know where it comes from, said Barfknecht. We know the farmers.

That may not be enough, if some legislators have their way. The new bill would create stricter government oversight, requiring farmers to prevent contamination of fruits and vegetables, during growing, harvesting and shipping.

Mark Voss has been an organic farmer for 17 years. He says local produce is the safest you can buy.

I haven't heard of any problems with food between a producer and consumer where it's a direct marketing arrangement, Voss said.

Local producers are already having a tough time of it. Jan Montgomery's farm in Spring Green just recovered from last year's devastating flooding.

We lost all the crops behind our house, as well as across the road where we have our garden area, Montgomery said.

She farms 100% organic, but can't afford the certification.

They know what we have in the soil. We don't use pesticides or herbicides to do any of our gardening. That's what's important to them. It's all natural.

She worries new regulations would be too expensive, giving big corporations the edge in the produce market.

We're looking at can we really do this? We can't afford -- we know how we raise things -- we want a safe product for everyone. If we're not going to eat it, we wouldn't expect anyone else to, Montgomery said.

It's too early to tell how much these new regulations would cost because they don't exist yet. Right now, the bill is sitting in the House Agriculture Committee. Representatives there are combing it over, before the full house gets to vote on it.


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