Senator Hagan visits small farmers at French Broad Co-Op Farmers Market

Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) took an hour or so Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 8, to visit with small farmers at the French Broad Food Co-op Farmer’s Market, at least partly in an attempt to reassure them that proposed legislation to tighten food safety standards will not affect them detrimentally, as some first feared.

Last year’s food-safety scares — involving contaminated peanut products, spinach, peppers, and more — led to what some observers felt was an overzealous response by the federal government to tighten regulations and traceability of food products in the event of contamination and the need for a recall.

Sen. Hagan is cosponsoring an amendment by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) to Senate Bill 510, the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act, which would exclude small producers — those farms earning less than $500,000 per year — thus relieving them of what many say would be an unsustainable burden of record keeping and administration. The amendment would also exclude producers who sell their food directly to consumers or restaurants (i.e., at farmers’ markets).

“I want to be sure that these local farmers don’t have to go through more burdensome bureaucratic paperwork — that they can continue to produce the foods they have here,” she said. “I want to be sure that the paperwork the large industrial farms need to have put in place won’t affect the small farmers. The key is, everybody wants to be sure that food they purchase is safe. The bill provides a food traceability mechanism [for the large producers], and if you buy locally, you know who the producer is.”

Most farmers at the market on Biltmore Avenue thanked Sen. Hagan for her support of the Tester Amendment. But a few remain concerned. Patryk Battle, head gardener of the Mountain Air Community Organic Garden and WCQS Gardening Show panelist, worries that by making the FDA responsible for enforcing the new standards, Senate Bill 510 means other negative effects could be on the horizon. “The FDA is vehemently opposed to raw milk, [and it] claims that there’s no difference between genetically engineered food and food in its natural state. They support irradiating food,” he asserts. “If given the powers proposed in this bill, the FDA will…have access to all your records with no need for a warrant.”

During a press event that followed the senator’s visit to each of the market stalls, Hagan took questions from folks who came to raise issues aside from food safety. Supporters of the Dream Act, which would provide access to higher education and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, came to ask for Sen. Hagan’s support of that legislation. The Senator has indicated that she does not support the Dream Act, and that she instead wants to see comprehensive immigration reform, rather than a piecemeal approach to its various components, such as education.

When asked about her support for comprehensive climate-change legislation, Hagan said: “I think climate change is real. I hope we can have a forward-thinking energy policy in our country. I think we need to stop spending a billion dollars a day with countries that are not our friends. We need to have more renewable energy [based] here in our country.”

photos by Jonathan Welch

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6 thoughts on “Senator Hagan visits small farmers at French Broad Co-Op Farmers Market

  1. T100C-1970

    “those farms earning less than $500,000 per year thus relieving them of what many say would be an unsustainable burden of record keeping and administration”

    So if my farm earns 501,000 per year I “deserve” the “unsustainable burden of record keeping and administration” ???

  2. Mike

    What the heck does she mean by “comprehensive”? She just voted to support a $600 million border security bill. So, now that the “security” piece of comprehensive reform is covered, can we move on to the other pieces, like the DREAM Act, which would allow tax-paying young people who were brought here as children and have lived most of their lives in this country a fair and humane path to citizenship?

  3. Susan Andrew

    Great questions…keep asking!

    Members of Congress are on recess Aug 9 – Sept. 12. What the Dream Act supporters (and this reporter) did to catch up with the Senator is look up her schedule, then simply SHOW UP and ask your questions for all to hear. Most representatives leave a little time at the end of public events to take such questions.

  4. Susan Andrew

    Not everyone knows: What “recess” means, is that the elected officals leave Washington and come to make the rounds in their home districts to catch up with constituents and local issues, raise money, and generally hob nob with the folks they are supposed to be representing. It’s a great time to connect over the issues YOU care about.

  5. Jose Rico

    She does not even know what the Dream Act is?? Is a peace of legislation that will allow STUDENTS to gain access to higher education!!!

  6. Harry Hamil

    Thanks to Susan Andrews, Jonathan Welch and the Mountain Xpress for timely, solid coverage with great photos!

    Sen. Hagan’s co-sponsorship of Sen. Tester’s amendments to mitigate the impact of S 510 on the local, healthy food movement has given those desperately needed amendments a chance at winning passage.

    By himself, Sen. Burr could assure the inclusion of the Tester-Hagan amendments. Unfortunately, he has NOT been willing to support the small growers, processors, packers and distributors that have spent many years developing the wonderful array of local food available in the Asheville area. He continues to ignore the many calls from supporters of local, healthy food.

    His opponent, Elaine Marshall, supports Tester-Hagan. Ms. Marshall was raised on a farm and her brother is a farmer. She understands that local, healthy food is part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

    This is a pivotal week in the fight for truly safe food. I urge everyone to call the Elaine Marshall for Senate campaign (888/674-2010), Sen. Burr (350-2437 or 202/224-3154) AND Sen. Hagan (257-6510 or 202/224-6342) and express strong support for inclusion of the Tester-Hagan amendments in S 510.

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