Food Safety Education and Advocacy
Many regulations that affect farmers are not written with small farmers and food processors in mind. So, these laws can be especially burdensome for these small farmers, while noncompliance often prevents them from selling to large buyers. The Coastal Conservation League is a source of information, advocacy, and networking so that our small farmers provide safe food, but also can stay in business, grow their markets, and stay on their land.
One new challenge for small farmers and food processors is the federal Food Safety Modernization Act or FSMA. FSMA was passed in 2011 and the FDA finished its rule-making late in 2015 for this massive overhaul of our food safety practices. Though this law will hopefully reduce the severity and frequency of foodborne illnesses, it increases the regulatory burden on our farm and food businesses. The Coastal Conservation League is working with GrowFood and our partners at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association to educate our farmers on what this policy means for them, and to make sure our agencies have the tools and resources they need to enforce it fairly and efficiently.
FSMA includes a provision known as the Tester-Hagan amendment that shields the smallest farmers and food processors from the most burdensome aspects of the law, and we are advocating that our regulatory agencies enforce this aspect of the law with the same care and attention as the rest of it.
Though mandated food safety laws are a huge concern, there are also lots of opportunities associated with voluntary food safety certifications, like Good Agricultural Practices or GAP. Many institutions will only buy food from GAP certified farms, so we are helping farmers meet this standard. This will allow GrowFood to distribute more local produce to institutions like the College of Charleston, and therefore provide an even more stable and profitable market for our local farmers.