One of the main threats to farm resilience is the lack of time farmers have – as noted in an earlier essay here. Time is actually an abstract concept, but, for farmers, it literally means time to meet, comply with, experiment, host, test, read, litigate – especially for limited resource farms. And so, a serious threat to small farms and locally-produced food has emerged in the form of S 510, (the “Food Safety” bill).
We’ve been watching closely what’s been happening to S 510. The Senate passed the Bill with its Tester amendment mostly in tact (which provides exemptions from costly food safety plans and more). Now, the House (which did not include this critical amendment) and Senate bills must be reconciled during a brief session. Supporters hold up the recent recall of a half-billion eggs after a Salmonella outbreak, as well as other outbreaks of contamination and disease, as reasons to bolster up food safety legislation.
Personally, it was fall 1995, in my first class at Western, that I encountered what such tragedy looks like. Just two years prior, in 1993, 16-month old Riley Detweiler had died of food poisoning; his father was taking my class. Often times, Mr. Detweiler would be away, having lunch with Al Gore or being interviewed on network television – fighting hard for food safety. Mr. Detweiler was busy, and he was angry. On the first day of class, he had told me, “I can’t read your textbook” (which was entitled Meat). Rather, on the last day of class, he gave a PowerPoint presentation on the Geography of Industrialized Meat. The presentation to my 450 students concluded with a picture of his baby son (leaving not one dry eye in the lecture room) – the endpoint of 300 different possible sources of meat inputs. But, therein lies the problem – in both engineering process and unforgiving geography/untraceability of that industrialized meat.
S 510 may be a solution – but not necessarily to the problem of unhealthy meat and eggs. It seeks controls that easily undermine the kind of farming that is the key to reducing risk in the American food system. For more, see Monsanto Expose and Farm To Consumer.
Dedicated to Riley Detweiler and small- and medium-sized farms everywhere trying to produce the most health-ful and nutritious foods possible.