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The Lone Farmer Who Testified on FSMA

Mike Tabor gives tour of his farm to local patrons.

Mike Tabor gives tour of his farm to local patrons.

TESTIMONY BEFORE FOOD SAFETY MODERNIZATION ACT HEARINGS
February 28, 2013
USDA Jefferson Auditorium

My name is Michael Tabor. I’ve been farming for over 40 years and sell in the Washington, DC area, primarily at farmers markets. I attended last week’s farmers’ listening session in Raleigh, NC and this session helps clarify some of the issues raised in Raleigh. It seems I am the only farmer testifying at this session which is unfortunate since we are the ones to be impacted by these regulations. Thus, my perspective will be different from the other speakers. I would like to point out that until 15 years ago, I sold unpasteurized, raw apple cider, thousands of gallons and in my 40 years of selling, never had a report of a food-borne illness or sickness. It is a very different situation when you are marketing directly to the public.

I have several points to make.

1. On confusing aspects of the regs regarding hoop houses, wild animals, food co-ops, farmer exemptions, record keeping, treatment of farmworkers and other items which will keep coming up at these FDA meetings. I’d like to suggest you hire a few current sustainable farmers at FDA headquarters, or at least create a farmer oversight board. You seem to have plenty of experts who are economists, nutritionists, lawyers, scientists and former corporate executives but no visible farmers. Hire some well grounded current farmers who will be equal partners in the decision making process. If you do that, the regs will have a better chance of being grounded in reality. (I would be happy to refer you to informed farmers who could serve in that capacity or refer you on to others who could help.)

2. Make no mistake, I am deeply concerned about outbreaks and prevention of salmonella, listeria and dangerous pathogens and their impact on our population. Most farmers like me already have a “contract” with our customers that our food is safe to consume. If we didn’t, we’d be out of business. But where we differ is that I also define as zero risk-based food as that which is free from pesticides, herbicides, and GMOs.– these are my customers’ primary concerns. The FDA has made the decision that those are not their concerns nor its mandate. Your priorities, I believe, come from, a belief in an industrialized food system and a little or no sensitivity to the needs of the 20 million customers who shop at farmers markets going out of their way to buy healthily-grown, pesticide-free food directly from the farmer.

3. I recommend all of you read the following books, in order to better understand why so many in the public are skeptical of the FDA, and its possible distortion of science-based testing: Wenonah Hauter’s “Foodopoly”, “The World According to Monsanto (Pollution, Corruption and the control of our Food Supply) Marie-Monique Robin, and “Seeds of Deception” exposing the lack of safety of genetically-engineered foods by Jeffrey M. Smith. I’m curious, have any of you read these books?

4. If the FDA is really serious about establishing credibility among the public, that it consider appointing, as commissioners, in addition to revolving door bio tech and pharmaceutical executives, some strong consumer, food and farmer advocates who have no interest in monetary gain and no corporate ties, for example, Jim Hightower and Gus Schumacher (two former state ag commissioners), Dr. Sidney Wolfe and journalists Michael Pollan and Ben Hewitt.

Finally, I’d like to end with some brief quotes which reflect my thinking that I wonder if you recognize and can identify:

“We face a deficit of trust – deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we must take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; and to give our people the government they deserve.”

“When the people running Washington are accountable only to the special interest that fund their campaigns…the well-connected CEOs and hired guns on K Street who have helped write our laws have gotten what they’ve paid for. …But outside this city, the people who can’t afford the high-priced lobbyists and don’t want to break the law are wondering, ‘When is it our turn? When will someone in Washington stand up for me’”.

Both are from your Chief Executive, Barack Obama, from the first State of the Union and the second is from the Lobbying Reform Summit, January, 2006.

Thank you.

Michael Tabor, Licking Creek Bend Farm, Needmore, PA

Michael Tabor of Licking Creek Bend Farm is an organic farmer near Washington, D.C. See his related post today, Farm Experts Predict Food Safety Laws will Destroy Local Food Trend.

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  1. […] his farm stand in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington, DC, for 40 years. Michael is the lone farmer who testified on FSMA before Congress last February (click link to read his testimony in […]

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