Regulation Nation: FDA rules could drive up costs for farmers, consumers

The farming industry is pushing back against two new regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which are aimed at food safety but could be costly to both farmers and consumers.

"At some point small farmers may just say this isn't worth it anymore and get out of the business altogether," said Karen Harned, executive director of National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Center.

The FDA says the rules are a critical step in making sure food-borne illnesses are prevented, rather than spending critical time and money trying to stop an outbreak once it's started.

The proposal dictates how farms that produce fruits and vegetables for sale in the U.S. must grow, harvest and pack the items. The agency says the rules "are the result of extensive outreach by the FDA with consumers, government, industry, researchers and many others."

But critics of the two proposals say they will burden U.S. businesses at a time when they're already struggling to remain profitable.

The NFIB estimates that just one of the rules would cost a medium-sized farm roughly $13,000 in compliance costs each year. Harned says the rules could drive up produce costs for consumers as well.

Overall, the American Action Forum estimates the two new regulations would cost the industry $6 billion and require 10.1 million hours worth of paperwork.

Harned worries the burden could ultimately backfire, as businesses spend time and money on compliance, "rather than doing what all of us need to do to help jump-start this economy -- growing their business and growing jobs."

FDA officials, who have been holding public hearings in order to get input on the proposals, note that smaller farms will get some leeway.

"Those with an average annual value of food sold during the previous three-year period of $25,000 or less -- would be exempt," the FDA says.

In addition, fruits and vegetables produced only for personal use or for consumption on the farm itself wouldn't be subject to the proposals.