CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- The Food and Drug Administration is organizing public hearings in New England for farmers who are concerned that proposed safety rules could hurt their businesses.
New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Annie Kuster have led a bipartisan effort of lawmakers to call on the FDA to come to New England.
The hearings will focus on proposed rules for implementing the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, which aims to increase the safety of the nation's food supply.
A May 28 letter sent to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg from 16 senators and representatives from New England says the rules could hurt farmers financially in the region.
The letter says it appears many aspects of the rules were derived from large-scale farming operation practices that don't represent many of New England's 33,000-plus farms.
"The average farm in New England is only 110 acres and fully 65 percent of our farms have yearly sales totaling under $10,000," the letter said. "The produce safety and preventive control rules as currently proposed by the FDA threaten to impose substantial regulatory and financial burdens that will impede the growth of these small farms and value-added on-farm enterprises.
"We urge you to come to New England to hear firsthand from our producers about the potential financial and environmental impact that these proposed rules could have on our unique agricultural sector," the letter said.