Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Washington, D.C. — “Today, the U.S. Senate passed a farm bill that did little to address the stranglehold that food processing firms have over America’s unsustainable and unfair food system. The Senate fiddled with minutiae but did nothing to stem the rising tide of mergers, takeovers and buyouts that further consolidates the food and agribusiness landscape.
“The Senate cut off almost all debate on amendments, ignoring more than 200 amendments. Only 14 amendments were considered, including a vindictive measure that would retroactively disqualify anyone who had ever been convicted of some felonies—or their children—from receiving food stamps. The Senate unanimously adopted this measure, which will disproportionately harm lower-income and minority families, even as states slowly restore voting rights to ex-offenders.
“On the other side of the spectrum, another considered amendment demonstrated that consumers’ desire for genetically engineered (GE) food to be labeled can no longer be ignored by Congress. Although Senator Sanders’ (D-VT) bill failed, several prominent senators switched to support the amendment along with others from states with active grassroots campaigns to pass state laws on GE labeling.
“Although Senators Grassley, Tester, Enzi and Rockefeller offered sensible steps to address the rising consolidation in a food industry that is already far too concentrated, the strong-arm tactics used to prevent consideration of all of their amendments prevented real reform where it is needed to provide increased oversight on mega-mergers and food monopolists.
“It was only 344 days ago that the Senate passed a similarly uninspired Farm Bill. The lack of deliberation is especially disheartening in the face of mega-mergers like the proposed takeover of Smithfield Foods by China’s largest meat company and the pending Cargill-ConAgra flourmill merger. It is past time for the Congress to stand up to the corporate consolidation that threatens to sweep away the last vestiges of competition in America’s food system.”