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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 7/10/09

HR 2749 - A Stealth Agribusiness Empowering Act

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On June 10, FSEA was fast-tracked from the House Health Subcommittee to the Energy and Commerce Committee where on June 17 it cleared and was referred to the full House "for later consideration."


Like legislation introduced earlier this year but so far not passed, food safety is the presumed issue, but it's merely for cover. Current laws and regulations work well but they're not enforced, an issue this writer addressed in a previous article. It explained that the USDA is woefully understaffed, under-budgeted, and only perfunctorily carries out inspections.


A March 3, 2008 OMB Watch report highlighted the problem. Headlined, "Federal Meat Inspectors Spread Thin as Recalls Rise," it explained that USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is charged with ensuring safe meat, poultry and eggs, but its budget and staff haven't kept pace with its mandate.


In FY 1981, it had about 190 workers per billion pounds of meat and poultry inspected. By FY 2007, it was fewer than 88 or less than half as many. Yet under federal law, FSIS must inspect all meat, poultry, and egg products intended for commercial use. Its web site states: "Slaughter facilities cannot operate if FSIS inspection personnel are not present (and) Only Federally inspected establishments can produce products that are destined to enter commerce."


For these and other agribusiness products, reality belies the mandate as processors, manufacturers, and other corporate operators circumvent procedures, and according to inspectors interviewed, understaffing and lax policies contribute to the problem. An unsafe food supply results. Government policy is to blame, and FSEA and earlier proposed legislation aren't designed to help. They're vehicles to empower food giants, destroy small farmers, and harm the consuming public.


The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) Reacts


FTCLDF is an NGO representing farmers and consumers to:


-- "Protect the constitutional right of the nation's family farms to provide processed and unprocessed farm foods directly to consumers through any legal means.


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