Farmers Question Need For Food Safety Enhancement Act

Thursday, July 30th 2009, 4:03 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

BIXBY, OK -- There is a battle over new food safety guidelines.  Lawmakers in Washington are debating a plan that would mean more stringent guidelines for America's food supply.  It includes giving the FDA more power to regulate and inspect our food.  Consumer groups support the plan, but there are others who have concerns about whether it is needed, and whether it could harm farmers.

"We are still getting lots of Bixby corn, the corn is awful pretty," said farmer Don Carmichael.

Don Carmichael has a produce business on South Memorial in Bixby.  Like many farmers, he is interested in what happens with the Food Safety Enhancement Act.

"Their intentions are good," said Don Carmichael.

But, like many farmers, Carmichael has reservations about the plan.  The food safety measure calls for more inspections and oversight of food manufacturers in the wake of a massive salmonella outbreak in peanuts.

Agriculture expert Ron Hays is with the Radio Oklahoma Network.

"No agricultural group No individual farmer or rancher is against the idea of food safety.  The idea is how you get it done, the regulations that are needed," said Ron Hays with Radio Oklahoma Network.

Hays says many farm state lawmakers have concerns about how the measure will affect small farms like Carmichael's.

"They don't think what it will cost labor wise to do things like that," said farmer Don Carmichael.

Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas, the ranking Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, says the measure would add hundreds of millions of dollars in fees and taxes and burdensome regulations.  And, likely would increase the cost of food for consumers.

"Somewhere down the line, somebody is going to have to pay for it," said farmer Don Carmichael.

Carmichael worries it could drive some small farmers out of business.  He says the United States has the safest food supply in the world, and questions whether the measure is needed.

"It's not that new regulations is going to make a lot of difference in what you do.  It's whether or not you do what you're supposed to to start with," said farmer Don Carmichael.

The small local growers who spoke with The News On 6 say, if anything, the new food safety measure should cover processing facilities rather than small farms.