The Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749), a bill currently being moved through the House of Representatives and gaining attention over the summer, could give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate the way animals are raised on farms—a prospect that worries many small farmers.

The bill brings to light the challenges of determining which government agency should be regulating which process.  And generally, farmers are more comfortable with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) governing farm production policies.

Many farmers believe that the FDA should regulate food and not necessarily the living organisms on the farm.  One of the biggest concerns among farmers is the lack of FDA expertise regarding on-farm production, as pointed out by North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten during his testimony at a June 17 congressional hearing on the bill. The Farm to Consumer News Web site reports that organic supporters are worried about burdensome and expensive regulations that the “food safety police,” as they call the FDA, might devise and enforce.

During a food safety hearing last month, however, co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Henry Waxman (D) of California suggested that most farmers have nothing to worry about and the motivation to give the FDA an increased role in governing farm production stems from “the large number of recent outbreaks that have originated from food contamination on farms,” which reveals that “more oversight is needed.”

The House is expected to discuss the bill further this week.

Image of U.S. Capitol by Rambling Traveler via flickr