A bipartisan effort by Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and ranking member Pat Roberts (R-KS) led to Senate approval of the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 (S.3240) by a 64 to 35 vote last week. The Senate-passed farm bill is a five-year reauthorization of federal agriculture, food assistance, and rural-development programs that will cost close to $1 trillion over the course of 10 years.
An amendment proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would allow states at their discretion to label any foods, beverages, or other edible products that contain genetically engineered ingredients was defeated by a vote of 73 to 26. NAMA joined other food and agriculture organizations in opposing this amendment. FDA’s current regulations require such labeling only when foods produced through biotechnology are changed in any way relevant to health, safety, or nutrition- for example, when a known allergen is introduced through the process. NAMA and other groups maintain that this provision is a marketing tactic that is not based on scientific fact. The United States government has a strong regulatory program in place to ensure that all foods are safe and to inform consumers whether foods or other edible products are potentially hazardous.
Please take time to thank those Senators who opposed the amendment at http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=112&session=2&vote=00161
The Senate Farm Bill authorizes annual funding of $34.5 million for the Foreign Market Development Program, an amount commensurate with what is allocated for the 2008 Farm Bill. NAMA also followed a bill sponsored by Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) designed to increase the authorized food-aid development earmark, or “safebox,” from 15 percent of the Title II budget to 20 percent. This amendment was approved by a voice vote. The House of Representatives, which still must debate and pass its version before the two bills can be combined and sent to President Barack Obama, will take up the issue following the July 4th break.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) noted that the Senate-passed bill focuses on crop insurance and includes conservation compliance. He asserts that the House version of the bill should contain target price provisions or a similar program called “reference prices” for a farm-income safety net. He proposes that the savings on the nutrition programs is not sufficient. His effort to schedule committee work on the bill this month was not successful. Scheduling depends in part on when the agriculture appropriations bill will be debated on the floor.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has called on House leadership to schedule floor time for farm bill consideration once it leaves committee. According to Politico, during a Washington meeting of land-grant universities, Vilsack said “I would ask [Lucas] to take his finger off the pause button so the rest of us don’t have to hit the panic button.”
The House is scheduled to be in session 16 days in July and 18 days in September, before adjourning October 8 for the November 6 elections. With so few days left, finding time to debate the Farm Bill on the floor may be difficult.
Twenty-five of the nation’s top nutrition bloggers, freelance food writers, dietitians, and health professionals traveled to Manhattan, KS, this month for the “Wheat Safari,” sponsored by the Wheat Foods Council. The goal of the event was to educate key decision makers about wheat’s nutrition and healthfulness.
The Safari allowed attendees to experience firsthand how wheat goes from farm to fork. The information-packed, two-and-a-half-day event included visits to a farm to see wheat being harvested; a tour of Kansas State University’s Hal Ross demonstration flour mill led by Fran Churchill, the NAMA instructor of milling, to see how wheat kernels are turned into flour; a hands-on baking workshop featuring wheat flour from different classes of wheat at the American Institute of Baking; and, finally, a visit to the Farm to Market Bread Co. bakery in Kansas City, where flour is transformed into wheat foods.
The tour gave participants an opportunity to write guest columns as well as film videos for the WFC Network website in an effort to get balanced coverage in both traditional and social media outlets.