House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) says he is worried the Food Safety Enforcement Act would allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate farm activities and has threatened to oppose the bill, unless his concerns are met. “Having read this bill … they (FDA) are clearly, in my opinion, going to be on the farm,” Peterson said at a hearing on the issue Thursday. Representatives of farm groups testifying before the House Agriculture Committee Thursday warned that the proposal could add unnecessary complications to the marketplace without improving food safety. Testifying on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation, North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten said adequate funding; increased education and training for inspectors; development of rapid testing procedures and tools; and compensation for producers who suffer marketing losses due to inaccurate government-advised recalls are critical considerations as the federal food safety system is evaluated. Wooten said farmers and ranchers do understand the need for continuous food safety improvement, but the farm-level impact on producers must be considered in any new food safety regulations or legislation. The proposed legislation would, among other things, give the FDA oversight of on-farm production activities, charge facilities an annual $500 registration fee, require additional record-keeping and expand FDA authority to quarantine geographic areas for food safety problems.
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