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For Small Farmers, New Food Safety Regulations Could Pose Problems

Chion Wolf

The Food Safety Modernization Act places a higher burden on food producers to ensure their products are safe to eat.

Squaring growing demand for locally grown food with new national farm regulations has been a point of frustration for many in agriculture and farm officials from around the northeast are meeting in New Haven this week to talk about it.

The annual summit includes the six New England States and a few others from the Mid-Atlantic -- places like New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York.

"Consumers are looking to buy more locally grown food, to reduce the miles between farm and plate. And one of the issues that we're confronting is the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act," said Steven Reviczky, Commissioner of Agriculture in Connecticut.

The law, which passed in 2010, expands the authority of the FDA, and places a higher burden on food producers to ensure their products are safe to eat. Each year, the CDC says millions of people get sick fromfoodborneillness -- and the hope is the Food Safety Modernization Act can mitigate that.

But, as always, there's the question of who's going to pay for it. Funding requested by the FDA for the act's implementation has been slow to get Congressional approval. Third District Congresswoman Rosa DeLaurohas written to President Obama's budget office over the issue. Reviczky thinks the act's lack of funding could undercut the growth of farms in the Northeast.

"We have a wide variety of farms here in the Northeast. Some very large farms, but then we have some smaller and mid-sized farms," Reviczky said. "It's easier to have big companies be able to comply, but it's much harder for smaller companies without the staff necessary to get to the right place."

The final rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act are due later this year and in early 2016.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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