Senate Farm Bill Update

Thank you for all of your calls on the Senate Farm Bill! Unfortunately, despite strong grassroots support, the Senate leadership prevented these amendments from even being voted on:

  • The Tester Seeds and Breeds amendment to ensure that some of your tax dollars are spent on classical plant breeding, rather than just genetically engineered seeds;
  • The Grassley Packer Ban Amendment to prevent giant meatpacking companies from unfairly manipulating the market by owning their own feedlots; and
  • The Paul Raw Milk amendment to remove the interstate ban on raw milk and stop FDA harassment of farmers and co-ops simply because they cross state lines.

The sponsors of these amendments all deserve our thanks for trying to bring these important issues to the Senate. If you live in their states, please be sure to let your friends and neighbors know that these Senators stood up for independent farmers and consumers: Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).

One amendment that we opposed – Senator Feinstein’s amendment to impose new regulations on laying hen operations – was also kept from a vote. Although we recognize the problems with the factory farm conditions, Feinstein’s bill could have serious unintended consequences for pastured farmers due to the labeling and euthanasia provisions.

We also urged phone calls in support of two amendments that were scheduled for a vote. We warned you that these amendments were both long shots, but they are important issues. It often takes several tries to get a bill or amendment through, so this was a start!

* The DeMint Checkoff amendment was defeated 79 to 20

There are currently 18 mandatory “Checkoff” programs. Under these programs, anytime a farmer sells a cow or a gallon of milk or any other covered commodity, the farmer is legally required to pay a fee to industry-run organizations. These funds are used to pay for things such as the “Got Milk?” and “Pork, the other white meat” advertising campaigns. The problem is that these advertising campaigns benefit primarily the retailers and grocery stores, not the farmers, but the farmers are stuck paying the bills. When it comes to raw milk, the industry adds insult to injury by promoting only pasteurized milk products and running ads against raw milk — yet raw milk farmers are still required to pay into the Checkoff to support those ads.

The DeMint amendment would have barred any Checkoff program from being mandatory. If producers wish to fund a joint advertising campaign, they still could, but they would no longer have been coerced to support advertising efforts that are not in their interest.

* The Sanders GMO labeling amendment was defeated 73-26

This amendment would have not have required labeling, but would have affirmed the right of the States to require labeling of GMOs. The amendment would have also required USDA and FDA to present a report within 2 years identifying how much of our food supply contains GMOs. This amendment supported both States’ rights and the right of individuals to make informed decisions for themselves.

We owe a “Thank You!” to Senator DeMint (R-SC) and Senator Sanders (I-VT) for sponsoring these amendments. You can see how your Senators voted on the DeMint amendment here and on the Sanders amendment here

For both of these amendments, please be sure to thank your Senators if they voted yes. If your Senators voted no, call and ask their staffers for an explanation and urge them to reconsider their position on these issues.

The House Agriculture Committee is expected to release its draft of the Farm Bill either this week or next. So we’ll be going through the amendment process again soon on the House side — stay tuned for more action alerts!