Farm Bill 2012 Alerts

The Senate is debating the Farm Bill right now, and there are several amendments that need your calls!

Please call your U.S. Senators as soon as possible about the amendments listed below. If you don’t know who represents you, you can find out at www.senate.gov or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

MESSAGE: “I am a constituent from ____ (state), and I urge Senator _______ to:

  1. Vote YES on the Paul Amendment #2180 to legalize interstate sales of raw milk;
  2. Vote YES on the Grassley-Conrad Packer Ban Amendment #2170 to prohibit packer companies from owning livestock;
  3. Vote YES on the Tester “Seeds & Breeds” Amendment #2234 to dedicate a portion of USDA’s research to classical breeding instead of genetically engineered seeds;
  4. Vote NO on the Feinstein Amendment #2252 to impose uniform standards for egg production.”

More information on each amendment is provided below. The amendments could be voted on at any time, so don’t wait – call now!

Over 190 amendments have already been filed, and more are expected. There is a lot that is wrong with the Farm Bill, but we are focusing our efforts on specific items that we believe are winnable and can make a positive impact on farmers and consumers.

 

More Information on Each Amendment

 

I. Support raw milk – Vote YES on Senator Rand Paul’s amendment to legalize interstate sales of raw milk.

Senator Rand Paul has filed an amendment based on HR 1830/ S 1955, the bill that would overturn the FDA’s current ban on the interstate sale or distribution of raw milk. States would still be free to impose whatever regulations they think appropriate, but the FDA would no longer be able to harass raw milk farmers and co-ops based solely on the fact that they have customers in other states.

 

II. Increase fair competition in livestock markets – vote YES on the Grassley-Conrad Packer Ban amendment.

Allowing meat packers to own the animals they slaughter reduces competition for livestock raised by independent cattle producers. The deadly combination of high market concentration and the increased use of packer-owned animals has meant lower prices, a smaller share of the retail dollar and shrinking markets for cattle producers.

Meat packers such as Tyson, Cargill, JBS, and Smithfield Foods use packer-owned livestock as a major tool for exerting unfair market power over farmers, ranchers and feeders. This practice fosters industrial livestock production and freezes independent farmers out of the market.

Packer-owned livestock has been proven to artificially lower farm-gate prices to farmers and ranchers while consumer food prices continue to rise. By prohibiting direct ownership of livestock by major meatpackers, a packer ban addresses significant problems with market manipulation and promotes a functioning free market.

 

III. Support non-GMO seeds – vote YES on Senator Tester’s “seeds and breeds” amendment.

More and more, agriculture research is controlled by corporations who are focused on expanding their genetically engineered crops, and every year farmers are left with fewer choices of seeds that are not genetically engineered. Farmers who want to avoid growing genetically modified (GMOs) simply don’t have good alternatives. And when farmers have no options, consumers have no options.

In the last Farm Bill, Congress directed the USDA to make classical plant and animal breeding a priority for funding, but the agency imposed hurdles in the grant-making process that have undermined this Congressional mandate. Tester’s amendment would require the USDA to dedicate at least 5% of the grants for research to support classical breeding, as opposed to research on genetically engineered crops. The amendment does not call for any new expenditures by the government, merely an allocation of some existing research money for non-GMO research.

 

IV. Protect pastured poultry producers from new regulations – vote NO on Senator Feinstein’s egg bill amendment.

Senator Feinstein’s bill was developed by the U.S. Humane Society and the United Egg Producers and requires various changes in the living conditions for caged laying hens. Although pastured producers do not use cages, they will still be affected by the bill’s requirements for labeling eggs and euthanasia.

The bill requires that eggs be labeled as either “eggs from free-range hens,” “eggs from cage-free hens,” “eggs from enriched cages,” or “eggs from caged hens.” There is no option for labeling the eggs as “pastured.” This means that pastured producers will be forced to label their eggs with the same label as a factory farm that allows the minimal access to the outdoors required for the free-range label, placing pastured producers at a significant competitive disadvantage.

The bill also places the American Veterinary Medical Association, an organization that has repeatedly supported factory farm production practices, in charge of what constitutes humane euthanasia for laying hens. It is unclear whether on-farm slaughter will be allowed, creating a significant problem for pastured producers who sell stewing hens once their layers are no longer productive.

The bill’s exemption for small producers covers only those who handle eggs solely from a single flock of three thousand birds or fewer. Thus, if small farmers work together to create a joint brand for marketing purposes, they will not be exempt from the bill no matter how small their individual flocks are. And those farmers who are trying to expand consumer access to high-quality food by maintaining large enough flocks for wholesale or restaurant distribution will be subject to the bill.

While the conditions in factory chicken farms undoubtedly need to be changed, this bill is not the right way to do it.