How Over-regulation Impacts Local Food Producers

I have lived in Southeastern Massachusetts for almost 35 years. When my husband and I and our daughters first moved here in October 1978, our neighbors told us we had to go see “The Big Apple.” Having New York City roots, we found this rather odd until we realized that The Big Apple was a local orchard and farm growing a variety of produce. Later, one of my fondest memories is driving the daughter of the owners (the Morse family) home one night and following their beautiful Christmas star through the snow to their house.

What I am trying to say is that The Big Apple is a local tradition. It has fresh cider, doughnuts, rides through the farm, apple picking, and a wonderful atmosphere. Unfortunately, government over-regulation may put The Big Apple out of business.

Today’s Attleboro Sun Chronicle posted a story about the impact of new government regulations on small family farms.

The article reports:

With new rules proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, The Big Apple would likely face expensive water testing requirements, paperwork and other changes covering not only its fields and orchards but its farm store, which washes fruit and serves up specialties like candy-coated apples.

“There’s a lot of paperwork,” Peg Morse said, adding that meeting the regulatory requirements could require as many as three or four additional full-time workers. The new rules would also require stepped-up water sampling and testing.

…The proposed new irrigation and water testing standards alone could cost the farm more than $20,000 per year, they say.

Currently, the Morses test water once a year. The new rules would require weekly testing of each and every water source the Morses use.

Since they draw from three irrigation ponds and two wells, John Morse sets the cost of testing, alone, at $400 per week.

There are lots of other changes, too, he says.

The farm will have to replace its wooden apple picking boxes with plastic ones, upgrade its machinery and change the way it applies fertilizer.

Proposed rules require nine months between the time manure is applied to a field and harvest time. With New England‘s short growing season, such a rule doesn’t make sense, Bonanno says.

The Morses say they’re worried about the new rules and how they would affect not only their business but their customers. All the added expenses would have to be paid by someone, and most likely would be passed on to the consumer.

“We might have to charge $12 for a bag of apples we now charge $6 for,” John said. “Who’s going to pay that?”

The article reminds us that if we drive the local farmers out of business, America will be forced to import more food from countries that do not have the strict agricultural standards that America has. Our attempt to increase food safety may in fact result in having a food supply that is less safe.

The bill involved in these changes is H.R. 933. The good news is that there is an amendment to the bill, H.AMDT.221 to H.R.1947, which requires a scientific and economic analysis of the FDA’s Food Safety and Modernization Act prior to final regulations being enforced with the focus of the analysis being on the impact of the bill on agricultural businesses of all sizes.

If the original bill is enforced, we will lose many sources of local produce throughout the country. In Southeastern Massachusetts, we will lose the experience of taking our children to a wonderful place where they can see apples sorted and drink fresh cider. That would also be a major loss.

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