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Tell the FDA that NH farms don’t need & can’t bear new regulations

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

I attended an informational meeting on August 7 at the UNH County Extension office in Boscawen on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). I already knew the regulations were not going to be easy to understand, but I had no idea that it was 1200+ pages. This bill was signed into law in January 2011, cosponsored by Senator Judd Gregg, with a "yes" vote from Senator Jeanne Shaheen. As I sat listening, one farmer asked the question "What do any of these people (those from the FDA) know about farming in New England, let alone New Hampshire?" Do they even care about the devastating effects this will have on our beautiful state?
Anyways, this bill is under the guise of protecting the consumer from their local farms. One farmer asked, "How many people have gotten sick from a New Hampshire farm?" The question was answered, "They just can't write laws for New Hampshire, and people have gotten sick in New England." So our two senators at the time voted for a bill that is now over 1200+ pages, and does not take into consideration New Hampshire farms, and we still do not know how many people have gotten sick from New Hampshire farms, if any.
So many questions are still unanswered, that even our own N.H. Department of Agriculture and the UNH Cooperative Extension Offices do not understand it completely. One thing is for sure, as was discussed by some of the larger farms, some will choose to sell their farm, some will shut down their pick-your own operations, and some farms will stop selling wholesale, these are facts discussed by farmers if these rules are implemented in their entirety.
One farmer estimated his yearly cost to be somewhere between $13,000 and $30,000 just to comply with the paperwork requirements, then there is the water compliance aspect, and then there is the environmental impact, because they will not be able to spread manure within the mandatory time-frame to be compliant and will have to turn to synthetic fertilizers for their fields. So what happens to all that manure? Let's not forget about the lost jobs.
Many farmers enjoy donating extra produce to food pantries and charitable organizations, but they are already saying they will no longer be able to do this, because of the paperwork requirements.
The FDA may be implementing this, but the state must enforce this mandate (which they do not have the resources to do). Who will pick up the additional cost to the state and the farmer? It is the consumer, and I thought food prices were high now. This bill is geared toward any farm that produces food/feed for human or animal consumption.
The FDA will be at Dartmouth College on August 20 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for a listening session. The N.H. Department of Agriculture has some information about FSMA on their website http://agriculture.nh.gov/index.htm as does the UNH Cooperative Extension http://extension.unh.edu/Food-Safety-Modernization-Act-FSMA. The open comment period has been extended until November 15, 2013. I urge everyone concerned about the cost of food, the local farm, and the rural character of our state to contact their US delegation.

Barbara Comtois
Center Barnstead