April 19, 2014

Senate Passes 2012 Farm Bill

The United States Senate passed the Farm Bill on Thursday, June 21, 2012 by a vote of 64 to 35. This legislation will direct the country’s nutrition and agriculture policy for the next five years. The bill now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Many amendments were attached to the bill, as we reported on earlier this month. This is what happened to the amendments relating to food safety and nutrition:

  • The pulse crop project, proposed by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) passed. It would encourage the purchase of legumes for school meals.
  • Amendment #2238 by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA), which would require more frequent dairy reporting, passed.
  • The amendment proposed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to strike the reduction in the food stamp program and increase funding for the fresh fruit and vegetable program was defeated.
  • The replacement of the food stamp program with a block grant, proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was defeated.
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) proposed an amendment to increase criminal penalties for those who knowingly sell contaminated food. It was defeated.
  • The Senate also defeated an amendment proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would have given the states the authority to require that GMO ingredients be labeled.
  • The raw milk amendment proposed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was not included in the final bill.
  • An amendment proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that would have mandated federal welfare standards for egg-laying hens was defeated. Another amendment by Feinstein, to require a study into the feasibility of an insurance product that covers food safety recalls, was passed.

The bill was praised by some organizations and panned by others. The nonprofit group Feeding America said, “with unemployment stuck above 8% nationally, millions of families scraping by with reduced wages or hours, it is critical that the 2012 Farm Bill protect and strengthen hunger-relief programs. While we are deeply disappointed that an amendment to restore the $4.5 billion in SNAP cuts failed to pass, we are pleased that the Senate demonstrated overwhelming bipartisan opposition to deeper cuts and harmful structural changes to SNAP to voting down several amendments to weaken the program.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association commended the legislation, saying,” although the amendment process was certainly concerning in its early stages, all is well for cattlemen and women thanks to their outspoken grassroots advocacy. There is no livestock title, conservation programs are maintained and the research title is sustained.”

Food and Water Watch said that “overall, this version of the farm bill amounts to a missed opportunity to tackle the root problem in our food system: consolidation and corporate control.” About the failed amendment to let states label GMO foods, the organization said, “there’s much more work to be done to ensure our right to know what we’re eating, but the fact that this amendment initiated a debate on the Senate floor is a solid step in the right direction.”

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