WASHINGTON - Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) led a meeting Wednesday with top officials at the Food and Drug Administration, including Deputy Commissioner Mike Taylor, to voice continued concerns about draft water quality rules that could put many farmers out of business in the Northwest and nationwide.
The FDA agreed to work to address concerns of growers, and to provide an additional opportunity for farmers to give input prior to the rules being finalized.
"Common-sense rules will make sure our food is safe without driving Oregon farmers out of business. I am pleased that the FDA has agreed to allow another opportunity for grower input before finalizing the rules and will work to address their concerns about why they are unworkable as currently drafted," Walden said.
"They have also agreed to take a look at new scientific research I received at OSU's experiment station in Malheur County last week. This evidence-based research is very helpful in showing that the rules as currently drafted just don't make any sense."
"The current proposed one-size-fits-all food safety regulations are simply unworkable in areas like Central Washington that rely on open ditch irrigation. It only makes sense that the FDA take into account the different ways produce – including apples, pears, and cherries – is grown and harvested," Hastings said.
"I look forward to working with the FDA to address the significant flaws that our growers have raised during the public comment period, and I am pleased that Deputy Commissioner Taylor pledged to provide growers another opportunity to provide input before any final rule is implemented."
Members of Congress originally met with the FDA in July to voice concerns they had heard from fruit and vegetable growers, including onion growers in eastern Oregon and apple growers in eastern Washington. Since then, the FDA officials traveled to the Pacific Northwest to hear from farmers first-hand.
The public comment period for the current draft of the rules ends on Friday. Any revision of the draft rules will likely become available after the first of the year.
The FDA delegation was led by Mr. Mike Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine. Other members of Congress present included Michigan Representatives Dan Benishek and Bill Huizenga.
Last Thursday, Walden met with researchers and onion growers at OSU's Malheur County Experiment Station to learn about their research into the scientific basis of the food safety rules the FDA is developing.
For example, according to the research conducted at the station, dry bulb onions grown in eastern Oregon pose no risk of E. coli contamination. Walden presented that research to the FDA during the meeting today.
Many farmers have pointed out that the proposed rule lacks common sense and a crop-specific approach, resulting in many of the proposed provisions being unworkable for growers.
Walden, Hastings, and other members of Congress have heard from growers who are worried that grouping over 200 crops together in one category fails to account for differing risk profiles and production practices, which has led to the proposed requirements that may be unworkable or unnecessary for particular crops.