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June 19th, 2012

Farm Bill in Progress: Senate’s Farm Bill Vote-o-rama

By Patty Lovera

We need a Farm Bill that is as good for farmers and the land as it is for eaters.

The Senate headed home last weekend with no clear indication of how they would tackle the farm bill. There was no agreement on how they would handle the nearly 300 amendments introduced. Then, Monday evening, the deal was announced: they would start a “vote-o-rama” to consider only 73 of the amendments. There were some important amendments on the list of 73 that would make the farm bill stronger and some that would make it significantly weaker.

The biggest disappointment was that the list included no amendments on competition in livestock markets, including an amendment by Senator Grassley that would have banned the ownership of livestock by meatpackers. One bright spot on the list was an amendment by Senators Sanders and Boxer to allow states to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. On Tuesday, 30 amendments were voted on by the full Senate, leaving 43 more to get through on Wednesday before a final vote on the entire bill.

We picked six amendments that we think are particularly important. Three of them were up for a vote on Tuesday. Here’s what happened:

  • Senator McCain’s amendment (S. Amdt. 2199) that would repeal a provision from the 2008 Farm Bill that created a USDA inspection program for domestic and imported catfish PASSED. Food & Water Watch opposed this amendment.
  • Senator Toomey’s amendment (S. Amdt. 2217) that would eliminate the Organic Certification Cost Share program FAILED. Food & Water Watch opposed this amendment.
  • Senator Gillibrand’s amendment (S. Amdt. 2156) that would restore critical funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program FAILED. Food & Water Watch supported this amendment.

There are three more from our list that should be voted on today:

  • Senator Toomey’s amendment (S. Amdt. 2247) that would exempt community water systems from a requirement to mail drinking water consumer confidence reports. Food & Water Watch OPPOSES this amendment.
  • Senator Sanders’ amendment (S. Amdt. 2310) that would allow states to adopt labeling requirements for genetically engineered foods. Food & Water Watch SUPPORTS this amendment.
  • Senator Merkley’s amendment (S. Amdt. S. 2382) that would develop crop insurance products for organic crops. Food & Water Watch SUPPORTS this amendment.

After the Senate passes their version of the farm bill, the House still needs to take its turn. The House Agriculture committee is scheduled to begin work on their version of the bill on Wednesday June 27. Stay tuned. And tell your Senators to make sure the bill protects U.S. farmers and consumers.

2 Comments on Farm Bill in Progress: Senate’s Farm Bill Vote-o-rama

  1. Hal Bauer says:

    As a small scale farmer who follows organic practices, I would be interested in knowing how crop and livestock insurance changes in the current Farm Bill might apply to small scale, local produce and livestock production.

    Large scale, commodity production by CAFO intensified corporate farms have been subsidized by previous Farm Bills.

    I like the Food and Water Watch recommendations.

    Large chain supermarkets don’t bother with small scale, local producers, as they demand large, insured deliveries to central, regional distribution points rather than to local produce managers. This essentially creates mega-farms remote from consumers, and deprives more small farms from income possibilities.

    • aghosh says:

      Hi Hal – good question. Since the Farm Bill must now be vetted by the House, I expect the answer is still flux.

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