July 28, 2013

Public can weigh in on food-safety rules

The impact of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act on farmers and others can be aired at forums.

The Associated Press

HANOVER, N.H. - The New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont agriculture departments are hosting listening sessions next month to offer farmers a chance to learn about proposed federal safety rules.

The sessions on Aug. 19 in Augusta, Maine, and Aug. 20 in Hanover, N.H., will focus on proposed rules for implementing the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, which aims to increase the safety of the nation's food supply.

The Maine hearing is at the State Armory and the New Hampshire one will be held in the Alumni Hall Auditorium in the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College.

All growers, manufacturers, and anyone interested in fresh produce safety and manufacturing of human food are encouraged to comment on the proposed rules. The comment period will remain open until Sept. 16.

A May letter sent to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg from senators and representatives from New England says the rules could hurt farmers financially in the region.

The letter says it appears many aspects of the rules were derived from large-scale farming operation practices that don't represent many of New England's 33,000-plus farms. It said the average farm in New England is only 110 acres and many have yearly sales totaling under $10,000.

New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Annie Kuster had led the group of senators and representatives to call on the FDA to come to New England.

"Our farmers represent a vital part of our economy and they deserve protections from excessive, burdensome regulations," Shaheen and Kuster said in a statement. "This public forum will give our farmers an opportunity to express concerns about these new rules and regulations and we're pleased the FDA has extended this opportunity at our request."


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