A survey of Iowans on food safety released Wednesday at Drake University showed support for a fee of $500 on food processors to fund increased food safety efforts. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat who chairs the ag committee, says such fees are a possibility.

Harkin says the system has to be changed, but the fees and how much they would be are not known. He says the fees could go to help improve the inspection system, but that isn’t known either.

Harkin says the main thing is people want to ensure that food is safe. He says producers have shown interest in fees if they help with the safety issue. He says the Vegetable Growers Association of America is supportive of the bill, because they realize an outbreak of food poisoning like happened with tainted spinach can harm everyone, and they want a national system of inspections and preventative measures in place.

“So I don’t think you’re going to get a real big push back from agriculture on this, as I said, they’re supportive of it,” Harkin says. The U.S. House has passed a food safety bill and Harkin says they’ll have to end up in a conference committee to work out differences once the Senate completes its bill.

Harkin says the big hurdle is how they combine the F.D.A. jurisdiction and with the jurisdiction of the U.S.D.A. Harkin says the U.S.D.A. does a good job with the things they have put in place for the inspection of meat over the last 10 to 12 years. Harkin says the incidents where people get sick from tainted spinach, salad or other foods have been increasing, and that erodes the public confidence in the system.

Harkin says we are importing more and more foods from overseas that are inspected like the food the U.S. grows, and he says people are rightfully concerned about the safety of food. Harkin made his comments following a discussion of food safety at Drake University in Des Moines.