Food Safety Modernization Act Far More Costly Than Supporters Claimed
“Proposed FDA safety rules frustrate tree fruit farmers,” reported The Washington Post. As the FDA puts “in place a massive overhaul of the nation’s food safety system,” due to the Food Safety Modernization Act, “Few groups have expressed more frustration than tree fruit farmers, who grow apples, pears and a variety of other produce. They complain that the FDA’s approach, in some ways, defies common sense.” The 2010 law is proving far more costly than its supporters promised it would be in order to get enacted. The “Food Safety Modernization Act would impose only modest costs on farmers, or so we kept being assured when it passed in 2010.” But many orchard growers now face tens of thousands of dollars in costs, notes the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson. As he notes, the law’s unexpected costs have caused a furor in some farming communities, and the Town of Brooksville recently became the “ninth in Maine to pass symbolic ‘food sovereignty’ resolution [See Jordan Bloom, The American Conservative; Food Renegade (Dan Brown of Blue Hill)].”
“The FDA has issued two proposed rules to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act enacted in 2011.” [Brian Wolfman, Public Citizen, including details and links; The Packer] “The costs to fruit and vegetable growers for complying with the newly proposed produce safety regulation have been estimated at more than $30,000 annually for large farms and about $13,000 per year for smaller farms.” [The Grower] As Olson observes, this could be an enormous burden for some farmers: “How much do typical US farm households make in a year, you may wonder? According to U.S. government figures (here and here, for example) a large proportion of smaller family farms make little or no profit, and are instead supported by the off-farm earnings of family members.”
Liberal newspapers trumpeted the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, while ignoring its potential harms to innovation, small business, and the availability of unconventional foods. CEI’s Greg Conko, who studies biotech and food safety regulation, earlier explained how the bill’s expensive and cumbersome red tape might thwart “firms from developing innovative new processes and practices that could deliver real food safety improvements.” Earlier versions of the bill backed by left-leaning interest groups were even worse, and would have driven “out of business” many more “local farmers and artisanal, small-scale producers of berries, herbs, cheese, and countless other wares, even when there is in fact nothing unsafe in their methods of production.” The version of the bill ultimately enacted was less extreme, but even it could “leave tens of thousands of small and mid-sized farms and food stands to be crushed under the weight of rules designed for some of the world’s largest food processors,” Conko observed.