Senate Bill 510 Now On the Floor of the Senate

One of the most alarming bills to the TSP community this year has been Senate Bill 510 also known as “The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act” .  I have talked about it on the air a few times.  Unfortunately this bill is rife with rumors that state nonsense such as…

  • Once this bill passes you won’t be able to give a tomato from your garden to your neighbor
  • This bill makes it illegal for you to save seeds from your backyard garden
  • Effectively this bill outlaws your ability to can your own vegetables

These statements are totally moronic and anyone claiming them as fact has either not actually read the bill, knows they are lying or isn’t capable of reading the language the bill is written in.   I have read this bill, every word of it and I can tall you for a fact this bill has NOTHING to do with your backyard garden, not one damn thing.

Personally I am opposed to this bill for a variety of reasons.  Chief among them is that the amount of expense and paperwork this new legislation will require may very will put thousands of small farms and food production companies out of business.  I also feel it is unconstitutional because it regulates in-state commerce; but it will be up to individual states to argue that if it passes.  The problem with the hype among opposition is it makes us look foolish and easy to marginalize.

Proponents of this bill claim it will make our food safer, the issue though is almost no one is ever made ill by food from small producers.  The dangers in our system come from giant companies who source food from hundreds of sources and use massive processing facilities.   If this bill only applied to large companies I would honestly not be as viciously opposed to it as I currently am.  They are the ones that have brought us chicken with salmonella, poisoned peanut butter, toxic dog food and hepatitis ridden green onions and jalapenos.

When I look at the past 5 years I can find dozens of instances of food contamination by this giant companies and it is no small wonder why.  Look how they farm chickens, process foods and ship livestock and it is honestly a wonder that more of us don’t become ill more often.  Yet I can’t find even ONE report of a person sick from food bought at a Farmer’s Market, from a CSA or a road side stand, not a single one.

What you really need to understand about S-510 is what it does, not the lies about what it means for your pepper patch.  The reality is most of the power in this bill is already law and already exists.  Currently it is exists in multiple departments and this consolidates that power.  Of course we are lied to about how this will “improve efficiency and cut waste“.  I would actually like to see a law that made it illegal for politicians to use that phrase with out independent third party verification in advance!  The key is though while I am opposed to many of these policies and powers they do in fact already exist.

The chief new rules in this bill and the ones that will crush small growers though revolve around tracking.  Under the new system if you eat a single bean and get sick the government should be able to instantly track that bean back to where it came from.  More importantly they will be able  find all other beans from that source instantly and get them out of the system.  Honestly that doesn’t sound like a bad idea given how many times our food has been infected by mega corps over the past few years.

So how does it hurt small growers?  It adds massive labor, paperwork and expense to people who generally struggle to get by as it is.  More to the point it treats the guy with 4 acres that sells direct to the public with the same regulation as the grower with 10,000 acres who sells to 50 different wholesale distributors.

Large scale producers can easily adapt to this type of regulation because they have the infrastructure to do so.  Of course Monsanto, Conagra, Tyson and many other big companies fully support it even though it will raise their costs.  Why?  The costs are easy to absorb with economy of scale and most of them are already doing this type of tracking for marketing and logistics purposes.  All they now do is provide the information to the government.  The same government they lobby for every goody they desire while their competition is crushed by new regulations and red tape.

The small grower though who sells direct or via a one step distribution system (like  coop or Farmer’s Market) though can’t easily adapt.  They are already squeezed by big agriculture six ways from Sunday and now they have to add tracking and paperwork to track an ear of corn they sell to you or me.  Now let’s forget that after my exhaustive search I can’t find ONE SINGE CASE where a person has been made ill in this type of transaction.  The key is this bill doesn’t make food safer anyway, it is about tracking food after someone gets sick.

Well if  buy tomatoes from Farmer Joe and get sick, do we need rfid chips and a mountain of paper work to track the tomatoes to the farm five miles down the road?  Of course not!  Only a complete idiot would ague that in such a flat and small distribution system needs the same regulation as a multi-billion dollar global conglomerate.

Look there is a lot of hype about S-510 but the reason to object to it is simple.  It puts undue burden and expense on small farms and small producers.  Including many who conduct in-state commerce only.  Look I don’t tell you what to think politically, but if you are opposed to this bill my suggestions are as follows.

  1. Call your Senators and tell them you oppose S-510 because it puts undue burden and expense on small farms and small producers.
  2. Ask your Senators their position and voice opposition if they support it, voice thanks if they oppose it
  3. Tell them the Federal Government has no business regulating in-state commerce.  Tell them if they try it you will be calling your states Attorney General and asking them to sue in opposition of it.  And that you will be asking your state’s legislature to oppose it with state regulations as well.
  4. If they oppose it ask them to consider drafting or sponsoring a small producers exemption amendment.   Tell them if they can’t succeed in preventing passage this is the next best thing and there is no reason why this can’t be done or at least attempted.

I should note that there are currently 17 amendments proposed, I don’t know if any are for small farm exemptions.  They are listed on Gov Track but no info is available.   Based on the names of those who have proposed them, (such as the turn coat Arlan Spector who seems to want to do damage on the way out), I don’t have much hope for that.  You can read the bill and follow it on Gov Track here.

On a side note, I did call my Senators and here were the results…

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson – I was put on hold twice while the staff tried to get me her position which I could not find online in any public statement.  (Par for the course for Kay)  I also had to tell them what S-510 was because they didn’t know.  In the end they said she had not made a public statement as to her final position (again this woman never seems to have a position during a process) but that she had voted no on cloture.

I was at least encouraged by that.   I did tell the staffer I opposed the bill and asked them to suggest a small producer amendment as a last resort to mitigate the damage.  I also asked that they make the Senator’s position known in public, I won’t hold my breath on that.

Senator John Cornyn – His office was much more on the ball.  They knew he was opposed and that he voted no on cloture.  I made a request that he publicly state his opposition and was told he had released a press release about it.  I can’t find this Press Release, it is not on Google News, it is not on his website, well, unless it is buried as a byline in an unrelated release.

At least in this case the Senator has a postion and his staff was informed.  If you can find this press release or any public statement by Mr. Cornyn opposing S-510 please let me know about it.

11 Responses to Senate Bill 510 Now On the Floor of the Senate

  1. http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/breaking-senate-votes-cloture-on-s-510-must-now-be-voted-on-in-60-days/

    For all of us PA residents, check out what Sen. Casey has to add to the topic:

    “These provisions add personnel to detect, track and remove smuggled food and call for the development and implementation of strategies to stop food from being smuggled into the United States.”

  2. Apparently, the Tester amendment is a small farm exemption for farms whose income is less than $500,000 and sell within a certain radius and/or in state. I did find this on Senator Tester’s website: http://tester.senate.gov/Legislation/foodsafety.cfm

    There is a lot of alarmist BS surrounding this bill but simply put, it will not make our food safer and without the amendment, it will put undue burden on small farms.

  3. Modern Survival

    @Brian, one thing I saw encouraging in that article was that Chambliss seemed to feel “the 500,000 dollar farm exception” was to low at least that is how I read it.

    This is the first that I have heard of an actual vs. proposed small farm amendment. Does anyone know what amendment this is and who proposed it? If nothing else this would keep a lot of small producers protected from this monstrosity. Sure I wouldn’t mind seeing it go higher but 500k would alleviate a lot of concerns for small time producers and certainly quell all hype about things like barter between neighbors.

  4. Modern Survival

    @Erin, you must have posted right as I was posting, thanks for that. I am going to look deeper into this Tester Amendment.

  5. Unfortunately, one of my senators, K. Gillibrand, is a Co-Sponsor of this ridiculous bill. Nice to know that my own state’s senators have sold what’s left of the small upstate farms under the bus.

    Fortunately, we will continue to operate much the same as we always have up here. Informal barter systems that serve the local economy quite well and operate outside of the influence of the communistas in Albany.

  6. Jack,

    Thank you for consistently maintaining level-headed and logical views on your positions. It keeps you content valuable!

    Strange how people are constantly blown about by emotion and rumors. I have tried to get friends to make the effort and contact their senators, whatever their position, but have been blown off by opinions already formed based on the crazy rumors.

  7. Specter has received nearly $210k and Casey around $50k from lobbying groups supporting the bill. They both voted yes on cloture.

  8. Jack,
    Thanks for the heads up, Both my Senators and the State Attorney General have been emailed

    This is really not good, and in fact gives if I have read your post through and through, gives more power those those like Monsanto Corp ( May their profit magin drop immediately).

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