Tester’s amendment for family-scale producers now part of Food Safety Bill

Senator: ‘Time to get this bill passed and strengthen food safety for all’

(U.S. SENATE) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester has reached an agreement with consumer groups and the bipartisan authors of the Senate’s Food Safety Bill to include his amendment to protect family-scale food producers from expensive federal paperwork and unnecessary new regulations.

“This important legislation is shaping up to be a much better bill with the inclusion of my amendment for family-scale producers, and it protects the jobs of family farmers and ranchers and processers,” Tester said today during a speech to the Senate.  “It really is time to get this bill passed and strengthen food safety for all Americans.”

Under Tester’s amendment, food producers who sell their goods directly to consumers and have less than $500,000 in annual sales would not be subject to the onerous new requirements designed for industrial-scale food producers.  Family-scale producers would, however, continue to be overseen by local and state food safety and health agencies.

Negotiators have agreed on the following minor revisions to include Tester’s amendment in the Food Safety Bill:

  • New language that gives U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authority to withdraw an exemption from a farm or facility that has been associated with a food-borne illness outbreak.
  • The distance from a facility or farm that is eligible to be a local “qualified end-user” has been reduced from 400 miles to 275 miles, or within the same state.

Tester says his amendment is a major victory for family agriculture, safer food, and for the local food movement.

“We deal with consolidation in our energy sector, we deal with consolidation in our banking sector,” Tester said.  “We have consolidation in our food industry too. The fact is we need to not encourage that consolidation.  I think if we can get more locally grown food—if we can get producers to connect up the consumers eyeball to eyeball—that’s a positive thing.  And I don’t want to diminish their ability to do this.”

Although Tester is himself a family-scale grain farmer, Tester’s own farm does not qualify under the amendment because he does not sell grain directly to consumers.

The Senate is currently debating the Food Safety Bill.  A final vote on the bill, including Tester’s amendment, could happen as early as today.

  • Tester’s Food Safety Bill resource page is now available online at: http://tester.senate.gov/foodsafety
  • A summary of Tester’s revised amendment is online HERE
  • The latest version of Tester’s amendment is online HERE
  • A YouTube video of Tester’s Senate floor speech is online HERE

Why the Tester Amendment?

“[Family-scale producers] are small. There’s a pride of ownership there that is real.  They raise food; they don’t raise a commodity as happens when these operations get bigger and bigger. And there is a direct customer relationship with that customer or that farmer that means a lot.  And if a mistake is made, which rarely happens, it doesn’t impact hundreds of thousands of people.  We know exactly where the problem was.  And we know exactly how to fix it.” –Senator Jon Tester