That is exactly the opposite of what the agency should do.
The FDA's very deliberate deliberation over the proposed rules foreshadowed the fact the agency lacks the ability to come up with clear and fair rules.
Nevermind the fact that, as I wrote last year, the key provisions of the FSMA have only the potential to bring about up to a "four-percent reduction in cases of foodborne illness" if they're implemented with absolute perfection (at a cost of $500 million each year).
Now that those who will be regulated under the Act have had time to review and consider the FDA's proposed FSMA rules, small farmers--who had hoped they were protected by an amendment to the Act--are panicking. And with good reason.
Sen. John Tester (D-MT) pushed to exempt small farmers from the FSMA's most onerous requirements. The "Tester Amendment," which passed as part of the Act in 2011, was supposed to do just that.
"We won... We won," claimed Tester in a victory lap for small farmers after the Amendment was included in the final version of the FSMA.
But it's those same small farmers and their allies who are now venting that the Tester Amendment has no teeth.
"Small farmers primarily are concerned that they will not be able afford to comply with the rules and that they may not qualify for an exemption," says Lauren Handel, an attorney who represents small farmers and other growing food businesses with Jason Foscolo LLC, in an email to me. "A farmer would not be exempt if his total annual food sales exceed $500,000, even if the vast majority of those sales are potatoes or some other commodity not covered by the rule.
"Thus," says Handel, "there is a significant disincentive for that potato farmer to diversify his business by, for example, growing a small amount of produce for a CSA or farmers’ market."
The FDA is hosting a series of public fora on the FSMA around the country. And what small farmers are telling the agency about the proposed FSMA regulations isn't pretty.
Angry New Hampshire farmers turned out in droves last week to oppose the FSMA.
One farmer said testing water quality "would cost him an extra $6,000 a year."
"There was a consensus among the farmers that they are already regulated and that the proposed regulations would not make their food safer," wrote the Manchester Union-Leader reporter who covered the New Hampshire hearing, "but more costly to produce."
Vermont farmers also spoke out against the FSMA at the New Hampshire hearing.