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Matters of scale and the politics of the Food Safety Modernization Act


  • Neva Hassanein



Signed into law in early 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) marked the first major overhaul of the United States’ regulatory system for food safety since the 1930s. This presidential address explores how the social movement for local and regional food systems influenced the debates around the FSMA and, in particular, how issues of scale became pivotal in those debates. Specifically, a key question revolved around whether or not the proposed regulations should apply to small farms and processors who sell directly to consumers in local markets. Advocates of the so-called “Tester amendment” aimed to create a scale-sensitive alternative to the requirements in the bill. This address lays out the three interrelated arguments that amendment advocates used. The first was the idea that food safety risks are different at different scales, and therefore the rules should reflect those differences. Their second argument revolved around the character of the local, direct markets of small producers and the social relationships embedded within them. The third argument used to support the Tester amendment is that the costs of complying with the detailed regulatory requirements of the new food safety law place a disproportionately large burden on small producers and that might thwart the emerging market for local food as an alternative to industrial agriculture. I conclude by suggesting some research and policy questions that could be explored more fully, both with respect to this case and with respect to alternative agri-food movements more generally. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Suggested Citation

  • Neva Hassanein, 2011. "Matters of scale and the politics of the Food Safety Modernization Act," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 28(4), pages 577-581, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:28:y:2011:i:4:p:577-581
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-011-9338-6

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Laura DeLind & Philip Howard, 2008. "Safe at any scale? Food scares, food regulation, and scaled alternatives," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 25(3), pages 301-317, September.
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    1. repec:spr:agrhuv:v:34:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10460-016-9765-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Sullins, Martha J. & Jablonski, Becca B.R., 2016. "What Influences Produce Growers' On-Farm Expenditures for Food Safety? A Colorado Investigation of Relationships among Farm Scale, Value of Sales, Market Channel, and Expenditure Levels," Western Economics Forum, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 15(01).
    3. Adalja, Aaron & Lichtenberg, Erik, 2015. "Impacts of the Food Safety Modernization Act on On-Farm Food Safety Practices for Small and Sustainable Produce Growers," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205322, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association;Western Agricultural Economics Association.
    4. Gupta, Clare & Jablonski, Becca B.R., 2016. "Farm Impacts of Farm-to-Grocer Sales: The Case of Hawai’i," Journal of Food Distribution Research, Food Distribution Research Society, vol. 47(3), November.


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