March 26, 2015

Voluntary GMO Food Labeling Legislation Hits House Floor

Representatives Mike Pompeo of Kansas and G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina have introduced the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act – which would create a national, science-based standard for the safety and labeling of food products containing genetically modified ingredients. The legislation is supported by a number of ag organizations – including the National Corn Growers Association and American Feed Industry Association. National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President and CEO Chuck Conner says this legislation is vital to giving farmers and consumers the certainty they deserve when it comes to labeling of food containing GMO ingredients – and at the same time would preserve choices in the marketplace for both groups. Conner says growers and farmer co-ops across the country have embraced biotechnology as a way to increase yields in an environmentally and economically sustainable way. He says this bill represents an important step in cutting through the misinformation about GMOs and focuses on the science attesting to their safety and the benefits these crops provide.

The American Soybean Association supports the bill – which ASA President Wade Cowan says would end confusion for consumers over which food products do not contain biotech ingredients. Cowan says establishing a national standard for non-GMO labels ensures all of the products without GMOs will have one simple, easy-to-understand label on them – and the consumer gets the information he or she is looking for. He says the bill also helps provide consumers with greater clarity by replacing state laws and regulations that can be at odds with one another with a clear national standard.

The American Farm Bureau Federation also applauds the introduction of this legislation – saying state-led mandatory food labeling initiatives mislead consumers about the safety of GM foods – even though there is no credible evidence linking a food safety or health risk to the consumption of GM foods. Creating a national labeling standard – according to AFBF President Bob Stallman – will give consumers the information they need while avoiding unnecessary confusion and added costs of a patchwork of state laws.


House Ag Committee Urges EPA To Pull Waters of the U.S.

The House Ag Committee Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee held a public hearing Tuesday to review the definition of the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule and its impact on rural America. Subcommittee members asserted the EPA has acted on its own – without input from states and stakeholders – to broaden the scope of the Clean Water Act – threatening the livelihood of farmers and ranchers and rural communities. Chairman Glenn Thompson says hasty movement from EPA will only invite costly litigation, burden states and counties with compliance costs and create obstacles to building and replacing U.S. infrastructure. He says the rule creates more confusion – and the testimony received during the hearing further outlines the need for EPA to either pull the rule and move for further consultation with states, counties and stakeholders – or re-propose the rule and allow a new round of public comment. House Ag Chair Mike Conaway supports legislation to block the WOTUS rule and hopes to put legislation blocking the proposed rule on President Obama’s desk.


Agriculture, Nutrition Programs Largely Escape Budget Cuts

The 2016 budget reconciliation process is just getting started, but for the moment, it appears both agriculture and nutrition programs will be largely spared.  Both Senate Ag Chair Pat Roberts of Kansas and House Ag Chair Mike Conaway of Texas had argued before that agriculture should be left out of the cuts due to savings achieved in the 2014 farm bill.

House budget plans released Tuesday called for the Ag committee to find $1 billion in savings over the next ten years or roughly $100 million per year.  The same proposal calls for revising SNAP programs to be run through the individual states as block grant programs.  The Senate budget proposal did not call for any cuts to be made by the Agricultural committee, although that could change as the compromise process moves on.  The Senate proposal also did not call for any changes to the SNAP program.

Neither chamber alluded to any of the cuts to crop insurance programs or subsidies that were proposed in the President’s budget a few weeks ago.  That proposal was met with a tepid reception at best in the House Ag Committee, with several members arguing that now is exactly the wrong time to discuss such measures.

Still, even GOP leaders concede, a final budget is a long ways off.  Reaching a final, ending agreement could be a test of the party’s new found leadership of both houses