April 14, 2010
UPDATE: The food safety bill (S 510) was supposed to go to the full Senate next week, but as of Thursday, April 15, we have heard that the timing is being pushed back a week or two because the Senate will instead be debating finance reform.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) would provide long overdue strengthening of federal enforcement of food safety rules for industry, but would also significantly impact farmers.
In most areas of the legislation, sustainable agriculture and family farm groups think the Senate bill is a very significant improvement over the companion bill passed by the House of Representatives (HR 2749) last year. If the Senate passes the bill next week or soon thereafter, it will head to a conference committee to work out differences between the two bills.
With the Senate floor vote near, negotiations on changes to the bill have really picked up speed in the past week. All of the successfully negotiated changes will be packaged together in a “manager’s amendment” that will become part of the underlying bill when it reaches the Senate floor.
We are happy to report below on several very important breakthroughs on important improvements the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and its member organizations have been diligently working on that will be in the manager’s amendment. Final details on these provisions may take another day or two, but the negotiations are substantially complete enough to report below in general terms. We will post again as soon as the absolutely final versions of the accepted amendments named below are available.
An amendment proposed by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to amend the traceability and recordkeeping section of the bill is still under negotiation. We hope to be able to report on the results of that discussion in the coming days. We remain very interested in maintaining or securing exemptions from traceback recordkeeping requirements for direct farmer-to-consumer or farmer-to-stores or restaurants sales as well as for farm identity preserved sales in general, and for limiting farmer recordkeeping to the point of first sale. More on this front as information becomes available.
Also in the mix are two amendments by Senator John Tester (D-MT) to exempt food facilities with under $500,000 gross sales from preventative control plan requirements and from traceback/recordkeeping. Those amendments will likely be debated separately as floor amendments next week and will not be part of the pre-negotiated manager’s package of amendments.
As we have previously reported, when the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee marked up and approved the bill late last year, NSAC helped secure several changes to S. 510 as it existed prior to markup. Those changes included:
We’ve been able to help make substantial improvements in the Senate bill through the HELP markup and in changes that will be adopted as part of the manager’s amendment when the bill comes to the Senate floor. We will need to work hard to maintain these positions in the House-Senate Conference later this year.
If the improvements we have worked hard to secure can be retained in the final bill coming out of conference, attention will then need to turn to the FDA rulemaking and implementation process where the rubber will really hit the road. There will also be the non-trivial matter of funding – to become effective, the bill will require a significant increase in agricultural appropriations over the coming years, a difficult proposition under any circumstances and particularly difficult in the current fiscal climate.
In our view, the bill is far from perfect, but with the changes adopted in markup and with the changes that will be adopted in the manager’s amendment, the lead Senate sponsors of S. 510 [Senators Durbin (D-IL), Gregg (R-NH), Dodd (D-CT), Burr (R-NC), Harkin (D-IA), Enzi (R-WY)] have gone a long way toward addressing the very legitimate concerns of advocates for small and mid-scale farming, local and regional food systems, and conservation and organic farming.
In addition to the outstanding leadership from Senators Sanders, Bennet, Stabenow, and Boxer, Senators whose support helped secure the improvements for family farming and sustainable agriculture include Senators Bingaman (D-NM), Brown (D-OH), Casey (D-PA), Collins (R-ME), Leahy (D-VT), Merkley (D-OR), Shaheen (D-NH), Specter (D-PA), and Tester (D-MT). We thank them all for their efforts.
We will provide further information later this week as the final details on the manager’s amendment are solidified and as other potential floor amendments come into focus. Should specific actions be required at that time, we will be sure to let our readers know.
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Categories: Food Safety