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New Safety Regulations Could Root Out Local Food

Photo: Strawberry fields at Cottle Organics. Courtesy: Cottle Organics
Photo: Strawberry fields at Cottle Organics. Courtesy: Cottle Organics
September 3, 2013

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The landscape of Florida's farming industry could change drastically if new food-safety regulations take effect. The changes come as a result of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which the FDA says will prevent almost 2 million cases of food-borne illnesses.

The additional requirements will cost small farmers as much as half of their annual profits, according to Roland McReynolds, who works as an advocate for farmers.

"These proposed rules are throwing the baby out with the bathwater," he declared. "Instead of unreasonable regulations, the Food and Drug Administration and food-safety regulators need to be working to help educate farmers."

McReynolds said many of the requirements are impractical and unnecessary for small farms in the state that he said already work hard to maintain safe food practices.

The public can comment on the new rules until November 15. Unless action is taken by the FDA or Congress, the regulations could take effect within the next 12 months.

Herbie Cottle, who owns an organic farm and has been farming for close to 60 years, said the additional costs could spell the end of farms like his.

"It'll definitely shut a lot of them down," Cottle said. "I mean, if you're not a certain size then you won't be able to absorb the cost."

The law does provide some allowances for farms that sell more than half their produce locally. McReynolds said that won't apply to many farms in Florida, and the new regulations work against growing consumer interest in locally-grown produce.

"That's what's inspiring a renaissance in agriculture today, and these rules will absolutely put a stop to that."

Part of the new food-safety requirements calls for extensive record keeping for even the smallest of farms. McReynolds said most of them work with a reduced staff, and that will prove too costly for them to maintain.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL