PA Act 106 – More Reader Thoughts

Debbie Murphy wrote in a few days ago about PA Act 106. For background – “On January 22, 2011 Pennsylvania’s new food safety law took effect, putting in place more uniform, statewide requirements for those who are in the food industry. With the passage of Act 106 of 2010 come changes that have the potential to impact vendors at the state’s more than 1,200 farmers markets. To ensure that those growers and processors who take advantage of the state’s strong network of direct-to-consumer opportunities have an understanding of the changes and are able to comply with the law, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has held informational meetings to review Act 106 and the new requirements that may exist for some farmers market vendors. The focus of the meetings will be on the change in licensing of farmers markets. The new law calls for each stand to be individually licensed, which is a change from previous years. While those stands that sell only raw, unprocessed products (fruits and vegetables that have not been processed) are exempt from licensing requirements, other vendors may have to secure licenses in advance of the 2011 farmers market season.” More info (fact sheets, check lists, video presentations) at PASA has posted the Act 106 webinar here.

Debbie expands on her concerns:

I’m a 4-H leader, raise some poultry and sheep, and have a small market garden from which I occasionally sell vegetables at a very small, local farmer’s market.

More than myself, I am concerned about those for whom this bill is going to be extremely destructive. What on earth will the Amish and Mennonite communities do? All move to Ohio and Missouri? The regulations are driving them out.

I have one friend who, with her husband, runs a delightful orchard. She bakes and sells about 100 pies a year at a farmers market, as well as some other baked items and apple cider. These are “value added” ways to save fruit that would otherwise be wasted because it isn’t “pretty.”

She received the regulations for a “food establishment” and was nearly in tears when she called me. An inspected kitchen? A health plan for employees? An expensive license? Tests upon tests? When would these costs make it silly to even try to bake the pies? This is what many small producers are about to realize.

The factory farms and huge processors which are causing the e.coli outbreaks, which produce the food which travels an average of 5,000 miles to get to our plates (this was a statistic given by a PA Department of Agriculture employee at a workshop I attended) are probably chuckling with delight–after all, a $102 license and a $40,000 kitchen is a speck of sand in a field of dirt to them.

And believe me, this law will do nothing for food safety in PA. It will simply cut out many of those who produce the safest, cleanest food around. Have you ever eaten a really fresh, pastured chicken? It tastes clean, it is clean, way different from a supermarket chicken. But I couldn’t sell you one at a farmer’s market, because I can’t afford the infrastructure, licenses, liability insurance and medical bills from all the stress this “Act 106” creates! But statistics show that almost all supermarket chicken has deadly e.coli. “Funny,” isn’t it?


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