Tester pushes amendment to protect family-scale producers as Senate debates food safety

Senator’s measure keeps smaller producers from being ‘blown out of business’

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester is pushing to include his amendment to protect local family-scale producers in the Food Safety Bill now being debated by the Senate.

Saying the nation’s food system is already too centralized through a few, industrial-scale producers, Tester warned that the Food Safety Bill as written would “blow local family-scale producers right out of business” by burdening them with expensive new federal regulations and time-consuming government paperwork.

Under Tester’s amendment (summary available HERE), family-scale producers would not be subject to onerous new requirements designed for industrial-scale food producers, although they would continue to be overseen by local and state food safety and health agencies.

Tester said without the amendment, the Food Safety Bill will hurt America’s smaller food producers and cost jobs.

“Food production in America is already too centralized, so we’ve got to fix this bill so it doesn’t put a nail in the coffin of family-scale producers,” said Tester, a third-generation farmer.  “The folks who sell their produce directly to the local market—whose customers can see them eyeball-to-eyeball and know where their food is coming from—shouldn’t be forced to deal with expensive new regulations aimed at big industry-scale producers.”

Tester’s amendment would apply to small family-scale producers who:

  • Sell most of their food directly to consumers, local restaurants and retailers, and
  • See less than $500,000 a year in sales, and

Tester’s proposal is supported by more than 150 local, state, and national food organizations, including Western Organization of Resource Councils, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and Food & Water Watch.  A letter from many of those organizations in support of Tester’s amendment is available HERE.

Nationally renowned food policy experts Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food) and Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) both support Tester’s amendment, saying it will make the Food Safety Bill “even more effective, strengthening food safety rules while protecting small farmers and producers.”

Tester’s amendment would not apply to his own farming operation, because Tester does not sell his grain directly to the marketplace.

A copy of Tester’s amendment is available at: tester.senate.gov/foodsafety.