By Patty Lovera
Next week, the U.S. House of Representatives are expected to take up the farm bill. Although we won’t know which amendments will be voted on, the House leadership has suggested that several dozen could be considered. Based on the House Agriculture Committee debate and the House Republicans’ response to the farm bill passed by the U.S. Senate last week, we can make some educated guesses as to what topics will be covered.
The amendments will likely include: attacks on federal nutrition programs, amendments to protect the crop insurance industry from being required to comply with conservation programs, efforts to eliminate the new dairy supply management program (which is a first step in the right direction to ensure dairy farmers receive more for their milk than it costs to produce), and attempts to use the farm bill as a vehicle for broad-based deregulation of environmental rules and safeguards. We’re keeping our eyes on a handful of topics likely to come up during the House debate and will be telling members of Congress to:
- OPPOSE any amendment to repeal or weaken country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat, poultry, fruits and vegetables: Representative Austin Scott (R-Georgia) is seeking to eliminate the labels that tell consumers where their food comes from. Consumers overwhelmingly support these commonsense labels and the USDA recently finalized rules that ensure consumers have access to clear and complete information on food labels.
- OPPOSE any amendment that weakens environmental laws, pesticide oversight and promotes broad-based deregulation: Some Republicans are eager to use the farm bill to promote an aggressive deregulation agenda to roll back environmental, food safety and consumer protection safeguards. There may be amendments to weaken clean water laws, pesticide oversight and prevent food safety and agriculture regulators from addressing new and emerging public health threats.
- OPPOSE amendments to weaken nutrition programs: Oppose all efforts to weaken the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) by reducing the number of lower-income people eligible for SNAP, reducing the funding for the vital safety net program or shifting SNAP from a federal to a state program, where states could rapidly unravel the program.
- SUPPORT any amendment to strip out the King commerce-clause provision: The House Agriculture Committee included an amendment from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) that could prohibit states from adopting their own labeling, food or farming standards. State governments often lead the way in addressing controversial issues including animal welfare and other food issues and these efforts should not be discouraged.
- SUPPORT any amendments to address the issue of contamination by genetically engineered crops. The recent discovery of unapproved GE wheat by a farmer in Oregon exposes the threat that field trials of GE crops pose to the food supply. The House should address this issue in the farm bill.
- SUPPORT any amendments to restore to organic farming programs: When the 2008 Farm Bill expired in 2012, several programs that supported organic farming lost their dedicated funding. These programs have helped to foster organic agriculture through research, helping to offset the cost of farms and food processors getting organic certification, and collecting data on the organic sector. These programs should be restored in the House Farm Bill.
We will have more updates next week when amendments become available. Stay tuned…