This is in response to an article (April 24) about Maine farmers facing excess regulation.
A few years ago, wild boars in California defecated in a field of salad greens at a mega-farm. The greens were inadequately washed and many people got sick. That, and other food scandals, did not involve small farmers serving consumers in their own state.
Now, farmers face a federal program (Good Agricultural Practices) certification that costs $400 or more annually. USDA inspectors (at $100/hour) check farms to see if they have fencing to keep out wild boars. Fencing would cost farmers approximately $1,000 per acre but would not keep most wildlife (crows, wild turkeys, mice, groundhogs, bears, moose, etc.) out of blueberry fields (60,000 acres in Maine). There is no evidence that blueberry consumers would be any safer, even if the fencing were 100 percent effective.
GAP is a voluntary program, but the chain supermarkets require all farmers to get GAP certification.
Meanwhile, the journal “Pediatrics,” May, 2010, reported that children with above average levels of malathion have twice the average rate of ADHD diagnoses. Conventional blueberries have the highest residues of malathion allowed by the USDA and EPA of all U.S. crops.
The article stated that state officials claim their hands are tied because the regulations are federal. Maine officials should not embrace a federal program unless it is affordable to small farmers and eases GAP rules for farmers with revenue less than $250,000 per year who do not sell across state lines.
Arthur Harvey, Hartford
Editor’s note: Arthur Harvey is a MOFGA-certified organic blueberry grower.