Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster

Representing the 2nd District of New Hampshire
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Shaheen, Kuster Lead Bipartisan, Bicameral Coalition Urging FDA to Hold Public Hearing on Upcoming Rule Changes

May 29, 2013
Press Release
Public Hearing Would Give New England Farmers Opportunity to Express Concerns, Urge Changes Ahead of Rule Changes

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) led a bipartisan, bicameral group of New England lawmakers in calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to hold a public hearing in New England so that farmers can express concerns on proposed Food Safety Modernization Act rules.

The FDA recently issued two proposed rules implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a 2011 law revamping food safety laws to increase the safety of our food supply, which would address preventative controls for human food and standards for the growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce for human consumption.  As proposed, the 1,200-pages of rules threaten New England farms with substantial regulatory and financial burdens.  

In a bipartisan letter sent Tuesday to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, members of the New England congressional delegation urged the FDA to hold a public hearing so that farmers have an opportunity to voice their concerns about the proposed rules and their regional implications.  In total, the letter was signed by 20 Senators and Representatives from every state in New England.  

“Agriculture is a robust and vital sector of our New England economy and greatly contributes to our environmental and public health…Substantial public investments have been made to ensure a robust and environmentally sustainable agricultural infrastructure in New England, and parts of the proposed FSMA rules threaten to undermine those investments,” said the lawmakers.

“The produce safety and preventive control rules as currently proposed by the FDA threaten to impose substantial regulatory and financial burdens that will impede the growth of these small farms and value-added on-farm enterprises.  We urge you to come to New England to hear firsthand from our producers about the potential financial and environmental impact that these proposed rules could have on our unique agricultural sector,” they added.

"As we quickly approach the close of public comments on this landmark piece of rulemaking it is imperative that FDA come to New England and provide a public forum for our producers and others to seek clarification of the proposed rules and to voice their concerns,” said Roger Noonan, President of the New England Farmers Union. “New England Farmers Union is extremely grateful to Representative Kuster and Senator Shaheen and the other members of the New England delegation for supporting this effort.”

“As written this rule will be a game changer, a New England based hearing would bring much needed attention to those that are unaware of its implications or have not taken it seriously,” said Jeff Holmes, President of the New Hampshire Farm Bureau Federation. “We thank Senator Shaheen and Congresswoman Kuster for taking the lead in making this much needed request.”

The full text of the letter is below, and the signed copy can be found here.

May 28, 2013

Dr. Margaret Hamburg
Commissioner
U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Dear Commissioner Hamburg:

Thank you for extending the comment period for the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules by 120 days to allow our producers and other stakeholders additional time to review these proposed rules and provide comment.  While we appreciate and support the implementation of this law, we write today requesting that you hold a public hearing and listening session in New England during this extended period to take comments from producers about the regional implications of these proposed rules. 

New England is home to over 33,000 farms—a number that is growing every year.  Agriculture is a robust and vital sector of our New England economy and greatly contributes to our environmental and public health.  Rising consumer demand for organic and locally produced farm goods has led to increased economic opportunity, often aided by support from programs administered through the USDA.  Substantial public investments have been made to ensure a robust and environmentally sustainable agricultural infrastructure in New England, and parts of the proposed FSMA rules threaten to undermine those investments.

It appears to us that many aspects of the rules were derived from existing practices of large scale farming operations that do not represent the majority of farms or farming practices in New England.  The average farm in New England is only 110 acres and fully 65% of our farms have yearly sales totaling under $10,000.  The produce safety and preventive control rules as currently proposed by the FDA threaten to impose substantial regulatory and financial burdens that will impede the growth of these small farms and value-added on-farm enterprises.  We urge you to come to New England to hear firsthand from our producers about the potential financial and environmental impact that these proposed rules could have on our unique agricultural sector.

We recognize the FDA’s desire to implement these rules expeditiously, but it is imperative that these rules reflect the needs of the many different regions throughout our nation, including New England’s growing local and regional food system.  We would welcome an opportunity to host the FDA in New England to explore science- and risk-based food safety standards that are appropriate to New England agriculture and in the best interest of both the farmers and consumers that we represent.

We appreciate your consideration of this request, and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

Jeanne Shaheen                                                                                            Ann McLane Kuster

United States Senator                                                                                 Member of Congress

 

William “Mo” Cowan                                                                                    Joe Courtney

United States Senator                                                                                 Member of Congress

 

Susan M. Collins                                                                                             Jim Langevin

United States Senator                                                                                 Member of Congress

 

Christopher S. Murphy                                                                                Peter Welch

United States Senator                                                                                 Member of Congress

 

Richard Blumenthal                                                                                       Chellie Pingree

United States Senator                                                                                 Member of Congress

 

Kelly A. Ayotte                                                                                                Niki Tsongas

United States Senator                                                                                 Member of Congress

 

Angus S. King, Jr.                                                                                            Carol Shea-Porter

United States Senator                                                                                 Member of Congress

 

Bernard Sanders                                                                                            Michael H. Michaud

United States Senator                                                                                 Member of Congress

 

Patrick J. Leahy                                                                                               James P. McGovern

United States Senator                                                                                 Member of Congress

 

Jack Reed                                                                                                          William R. Keating

United States Senator                                                                                 Member of Congress

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CONTACT:

Liz Kenigsberg, 202-224-5553 (Shaheen)
Rob Friedlander, 202-225-5206 (Kuster)
Maura Hogan, 202-224-4159 (Cowan)
Kevin Kelley, 202-224-2523 (Collins)
Ben Marter, 202-224-4041 (Murphy)
Kamara Jones, 202-224-2823 (Blumenthal)
Liz Johnson 202-224-3324 (Ayotte)
Scott Ogden, 202-224-5344 (King)
Michael Briggs, 202-224-5141 (Sanders)
David Carle, 202-224-4242 (Leahy)
Chip Unruh, 202-224-4642 (Reed)