November 23, 2020

Food Related Amendments to the 2012 Farm Bill

The U.S. Senate voted last week to proceed with S. 3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act. Now Senators have submitted more than 80 amendments to the 2012 Farm Bill, as it is commonly known. Among those are amendments that would have an effect on food safety and nutrition.

CongressThese are the notable amendments:

  • Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) would like to encourage the purchase of pulse crop products for school meals. Pulses are legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, and black-eyed peas.
  • The amendments by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) include requiring more frequent dairy reporting and authorizing small operating loans for producers and farmers markets.
  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wants to strike the reduction in the food stamp program and increase funding for the fresh fruit and vegetable program.
  • Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wants to replace the food stamp program with a block grant (and repeal the estate tax).
  • Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) would like to increase criminal penalties for “knowing and intentional” violations to food that is misbranded or adulterated.
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to repeal the Lacey Act and allow trade in “illegally obtained wildlife, fish, and plants.” He also wants to allow interstate shipment of raw milk.
  • Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) wants to eliminate the farmers market and local food promotion program.

Senator Leahy’s amendment was introduced to make up for a lack of criminal penalties in the Food Safety Modernization Act. It would increase the penalty for knowingly distributing contaminated or misbranded food from a misdemeanor to a felony. Prosecutors would be able to seek 10-year sentences for violators.

This is in direct response to the nationwide 2008 Peanut Corporation of America Salmonella outbreak that sickened 714 people and killed nine. Officials from that company shipped peanut butter, even though internal emails showed that they knew the product was contaminated.

Leahy is the author of the Food Safety Accountability Act that was introduced in 2011. The Senate unanimously passed the Act last year, but the U.S. House of Representatives has yet to vote on the legislation.

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