“Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released more than 1,236 pages of new regulations governing the growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fresh produce. While it is of utmost importance to preserve the safety of the U.S. food supply, I am concerned about the scientific necessity of this rule and the economic impact that it would have on growers in Idaho.
“The proposed rule, Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, was released by the FDA in January. This rule stems from the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which I opposed, but was signed into law in January 2011. It directed the FDA to further develop mandatory food safety and traceability requirements, which would affect farmers, packers, and processors of both domestically produced and imported products. Specifically, the rule would apply to any produce that could be consumed raw and would affect any agricultural water that could come into contact with that produce.
“The FDA estimates that this rule will cost growers between $5,000 to $30,000 per farm a year—or $460 million a year. The FDA’s goal of protecting food safety will be undermined if growers do not have the ability to implement procedures or are forced out of business.
“In an effort to prevent devastating new regulations on growers of specialty crops, Representative Greg Walden and I led a July meeting with top officials at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to convey concerns we have heard from Idaho and Oregon onion farmers and fruit growers about the proposed new irrigation water quality rule that could cripple farms across the country. As a result of this meeting, an FDA delegation visited Idaho, Oregon and Washington State in August to hear from growers about their specific concerns with the rule firsthand.
“I have not seen sufficient evidence that implementing the proposed rule would provide its intended benefit. For instance, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have linked E. coli cases to leafy greens, like lettuce and spinach, there are no posted cases linked to dry bulb onions, which are grown in Idaho. A recent study by an Oregon State University scientist concluded that there is no risk of E. coli contamination from dry onion bulbs. This illustrates why the rule needs to be commodity-specific and risk-based. I will continue to emphasize that the FDA shouldn’t impose restrictions on agricultural water that are not viable for Idaho farmers.
“The farm bill which passed the House of Representatives on July 11, with my support, included an amendment by Representative Benishek (R-MI) requiring a scientific and economic analysis of the FDA's Food Safety and Modernization Act prior to enforcement of final regulations. Earlier this month, I joined six colleagues in a letter to the farm bill conference committee urging the conferees to include language in the final bill that would require new federal rules to be based on the best available science and include a study of possible economic impacts.
“With an Administration that issues an abundance of rules and regulations for all industry, it is especially important for the FDA to utilize input from producers and industry experts to achieve effective and sensible crop-specific methods to ensure food safety.”