Bills during “lame duck” sessions in the Senate rarely have enough legs to pass through. Bi-partisan support is even rarer. Still, the U.S. Senate passed the Food Safety Bill (SB 510) with a jaw dropping 73 to 25 vote today.
The Food Safety Modernization Act gives the USDA, which inspects 80 percent of the nation’s food supply, unprecedented means to improve food safety. The law will zero in on food-borne illness prevention, detection, and response.
Great news, right? The bigger industries will find the bill headache inducing but not be hindered financially. However, small farms and small food producers would find the bill quite taxing on their already uphill battle with finances. Mountainous paperwork and pocket gouging inspections would hinder our local food system since a majority of Asheville (and other farm friendly communities) proudly depend on the small farms.
Luckily, a rider of sanity emerged on the bill called the Tester Amendment (introduced by Montana Senator Jon Tester).
This financially sane amendment states that food producers who make less than $500,000 in annual sales would not be subject to the new federal requirements as long as they sell most of their food directly to in-state consumers, or within a 275-mile radius of where it was produced.
It now goes to the U.S. House, where they will determine whether to pass the Senate’s form of the bill. Hopefully, the pattern of bi-partisan and non-lame duck tendencies will continue.
President Obama’s pen awaits.