Friday, April 13, 2012

Food Security Bill 1947 and Small Farmers

Proposed bill, SB 1947, could stop small scale farming in Hawaii by making it too expensive for farmers to farm. 

Maui Farmer's Union presented an update on this bill, at their meeting March 27th, 2012. Watch the video, and if you can't access the video, then read the rough (not totally verbatim) transcript below:

Bill Greenleaf: Small scale farmers can’t afford the cost it takes to do that. They can’t afford to keep manini (Hawaiian for time-consuming, detailed) records of the day to day touching of each plant. They keep pushing that 1947 is voluntary. If you talk w/ anyone that’s the main point they make. Just so you know getting a driver’s license is voluntary too. Who’s got a driver’s license here? 

And as far as farming goes, the connection is they’ve already stopped farmers on Oahu who were selling for a long time at KC (?) Market who don’t have food safety. Now they’ve had to back up and say that people in the process can do it, but they stopped them from selling at those markets and it’s not going to be too far down the road before insurance companies say they can’t give you insurance unless you have food safety. It’s like apple pie and mom’s {glass of } milk – everyone wants food safety. Well this isn’t about food safety at all. The companies behind it are the lobbyists for all the large agricultural companies. FACE did the investigative work and they found out who’s pushing it and it’s not about food safety, it’s about stopping the local agricultural movement.

Vince Mina: In that spirit, if you want to get food safety certified, great. If I want to sell to Costco and get food safety certified, great. Then I just go get whoever’s doing this on the mainland to come inspect my farm. The people who don’t need that or don’t want that don’t (shouldn’t) have to. That’s what we want to see in a nutshell. Farm Bureau is for this food safety bill that they’re pushing through. And it’s being pushed through big time. These legislators are so smug. I’ve got my {….} with these guys. You can see them standing there real smug with “punch me” written all over their face.

Melissa’s a board member of MFUU. 

Melissa: I just want to say the cost in being food safety certified for a small farmer is approximately $30,000 – to hire someone and do the paperwork. That’s the requirement.

Vince/Bill: It’s pretty gnarly stuff.

Here’s the point. When you get info from us about this bill, Food Safety, share your mana’o. read about it, get educated.

Bill referring to Penny in the audience: What Penny’s saying, there’s a Tester Hague (sp?) amendment to the food safety modernization act (federal level). Well, read the sentence below. It says that we’re still required to operate under all state and local laws. So when they make a law (the state), we gotta operate on it.

(Penny is hard to hear) – She is talking about the state dept of health for food rules and safety and says they are actually really good, and we need to look at this.

Bill responding: Well they put it under Dept of Ag and there’s all kinds of crazy language in there -  we will be responsible for extra costs, all travel costs of inspectors. They bill out at a pretty heft rate, $80-90/hour for people from the mainland, and you have to put them up, pay for a hotel, their food, it’s a normal cost of business for agriculture for anyone who sells to Costco or Safeway. That’s how I learned about this. I went to a Farm Bureau presentation that had groups describe what their process was, how effective it wasx. It was a great presentation that Farm Bureau put on. I got a degree in accounting. It’s really simple. We can’t afford it. We don’t need it and that’s the main thing. I had Louisa from Dept of Ag go around our farm and it’s wonderful.  Almost everything we’re doing is in alignment. I just need to compost all the manure, everything in my chicken yard, I need to run it through a screen, put in my compost piles and then take it out. And I need a place for people to dry their hands after they wash. And that’s basically it. And that would have cost my $8,000 and another $15 or 20k worth of recordkeeping under SB 1947.

Farmer in audience: Bill, is there a way to collectively get together w/ Louisa Castro and the CES up here and develop a guideline for small diversified farms for food safety?

Bill: That’s plan B. We wrote a bill, SB 2027 (?), that says exactly that. Farmer’s Union is considering that as a prototype. We’d like to make a bill that would address our level.

And here’s the kicker. If you want an automated, mandated food inspection, they give you a month to make an appointment, you get a whole month to prepare for that. Now if you’re really food safety certified, why can’t you have surprise audits? Then what’s the big deal? Why can’t they make a surprise visit? And if you aren’t (food safe), then they can make a correction. We need to get real. 


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