New Food Safety Rules: Too Much for Ohio's Small Farms?
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Some Ohio growers are concerned that regulations they see as overly burdensome are being proposed for reasons of food safety. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to make changes to its Food Safety Modernization Act that the agency estimates will prevent close to 2 million foodborne illnesses.
However, as a result, small family farms such as Northridge Organic Farm in Licking County could incur expenses that the farm's owner, Mike Laughlin, said are higher than they can afford - for changes that he sees as excessive.
"The added expense is going to drive an awful lot of farms out of business," he warned. "At a time when people are asking for more and more local food for their tables, it's going to mean fewer venders available to sell to farm markets, fewer choices for consumers."
According to FDA estimates, a small farm would bear an initial cost of more than $27,000, and then an annual cost of nearly $13,000 - figures Laughlin said could wipe out a good chunk of annual profits. The FDA is taking public comment on the proposed changes until Nov. 15.
While he agreed food safety is an important matter, Laughlin said smaller operations are already at lower risk due to their size, scope and, for some, alternative farming practices that maintain soil and water integrity. He predicted that the new rules would favor larger farms and hurt the smaller growers who will struggle to absorb the costs of new equipment and documentation required under the changes.
"When you have rules and regulations, they do need to be size-specific," he said. "It can't be a 'one size fits all.'"
Laughlin added it isn't just farmers who need to weigh in on the matter.
"For the consumers who are out there shopping at the farm markets, if it's something that's very important to you then you need to get involved and get a hold of the FDA, and let 'em know what you think."
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association has posted information about how to comment on its website, www.oeffa.org.