Sep
02
    
Posted (Steven) in News

After yesterday’s positive report it is with great sadness that I report a ruling by the FDA prohibiting the harvest and sale for human consumption of any and all flood covered crops.  This ruling impacts on the vast majority of farms on the east coast and virtually every farm in the Hudson Valley.  As the ruling stands, this ends the season for Stoneledge Farm.  Deb and Pete are making inquiries to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets as well as the US Food and Drug Administration.  I am looking for a time to schedule a time when they can come to the city and meet with members to explain how things stand.  The farmers have asked that anybody planning to help this weekend refrain from doing so.

Why did the FDA make this blanket ruling?

The general theory is that flood covered crops are susceptible to water borne pathogens coming from septic systems, animal waste, and chemicals from flooded equipment and runoff.  Robin Kenwood provide this link to the FDA notice on food safety.  Whether or not this is the specific case for Stoneledge Farm is debatable.  We would certainly like to let them have an opportunity to have a fair inspection.

What does this mean to members?
Again, as it stands this stops all crop harvesting activities at the farm for the season.  The materials and labor for the remainder of the season were already purchased so the farm is not in a position to refund members for vegetable shares.  The fruit shares are mostly purchased from neighboring farms on a weekly basis so members will receive a pro-rated refund for the remainder of the fruit season only.

What can be done?
There are crops in the fields, enough to continue deliveries for the rest of the season.  Pete spoke with the commissioner’s office at the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.  He was told that the best course of action is to have as many people as possible contact their local and national officials to try to get consideration for farms on a case-by-case basis, keeping in mind that this is a federal ruling.

Member Lori Stein writes:
When I write my letters, I’m going to make it clear that I understand that the ruling is meant to protect us from contaminated food–but that there are situations, such as ours, where the floodwaters are as clean as the water that is used to irrigate and that it is a terrible waste to destroy food that is clean and pure. A blanket ruling means that tons of healthy food will be lost and many farms and consumers will suffer needlessly.

NY State Dept. of Agriculture and Markets
http://www.agmkt.state.ny.us, select the Contact Us link.

Information on contacting your congressperson in the House of Representatives
http://www.house.gov/representatives/

Senator Kirstin Gillibrand (Gillibrand is from the Hudson Valley area and is very interested in agriculture; she toured the region after the hurricane):
Phone: 212 688 6262 or 202-224-4451, fax at 866 824 6340
http://gillibrand.senate.gov/contact/

Senator Charles Schumer
202-224-6542
http://schumer.senate.gov/Public/contact.htm

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture is scheduled to tour the region on Saturday.
Phone number: 202-720-3631
Email: AgSec@usda.gov

- steven waxman



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