Today at the Farmers Market in West Columbia, the South Carolina Food Policy Council met to discuss pressing regulatory and policy issues facing food producers in South Carolina. Our vision is that farmers at every scale will have access to the coast’s burgeoning urban markets, satisfying the growing demand for local vegetables and meat, strengthening struggling rural communities, and stabilizing rural land use, and sponsoring today’s conference is part of getting there.
Our Chief Conservation Officer Lisa Turansky was the master of ceremonies at today’s event, where regulators, farmers, and scientists came together to discuss food policy issues including community lending, food safety regulations, and how Clemson helps farmers through the extension service.
Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers started the meeting off and stressed the importance of food production to the South Carolina, and specifically discussed tailoring federal regulations originally designed for larger farms for smaller producers. The Conservation League works on this issue at the State House, specifically on a bill that will will exempt very small farms from certain hazard mitigation policies designed for larger scale agriculture operations. Food safety is important. We don’t want farmers watering lettuce with water from a pond that cows also bathe in, but you also don’t want to impose large farm rules on small farms. The Conservation League is working hard with our Food Council partners to strike that balance.
Jack Danzler, Director of Inspections and Grading at the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, spoke on the need for food safety in farms of all sizes, with examples of best–and less than best–practices for keeping produce safe.
We also heard from Ryan Oates from Tyger River Smart Farm in Duncan, who grows hydroponic leafy greens, and sells to local restaurants and at farmers markets in the Upstate.
Lucas Snyder from the South Carolina Hemp Growers Association discussed the benefits of commercial hemp production for South Carolina, and they ways that South Carolina can tailor policies and regulations to create the conditions for growth in this industry, and the associated jobs for rural South Carolina.
Roland McReynolds, head of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association based in Pittsboro, North Carolina, spoke on the role of FDA regulations for farmers, including the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in 2011. The first major change to our good safety laws since the 1930s, the Food Safety Modernization Act affects how South Carolina farms work, and the Conservation League is part of the effort to streamline this policy and prevent inefficient one-size-fits-all solutions.
Thank you to everyone who came out today to support the sustainability of our state’s food sector enterprises and the health of our communities!