November 19, 2010
Late Wednesday, November 17, a deal was reached on a revised version of the Tester-Hagan small farm amendment to S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act. The revised amendment, which NSAC helped broker, was then placed into a revised version of the Manager’s amendment to the bill. The Manager’s amendment also includes several other NSAC-backed amendments that improve the underlying bill on issues related to family farms, conservation, and local and regional food systems.
On Thursday, the Senate approved a motion to proceed to consideration of the bill by a vote of 57-27. However, action on the food safety bill remains stalled in Senate, in part because Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) want to offer non-germane amendments dealing with a ban on congressional earmarks until 2013 and repeal of a tax-related section of the health care act, respectively.
A time agreement was reached by the Senate leadership late Thursday night. It provides for two more cloture votes to take place on November 29, immediately following the Thanksgiving week congressional recess, one to shut down debate on the Manager’s amendment and a second to shut down debate on the bill.
As a result of the time agreement there will only be debate on four measures — the Johanns health care amendment and a Democratic alternative from Senator Baucus (D-MT) with one hour of debate combined; a Coburn substitute for the entire food safety bill; and the Coburn amendment to ban congressional earmarks, with four hours of debate on the two Coburn amendments combined. After those five hours of debate, there will be votes on each measure, in the same order, and then on the manager’s amendment and final bill.
NSAC supports the revised Tester-Hagan amendment as now incorporated into the Manager’s amendment and supports passage of the Manager’s amendment and then the final bill as so amended.
Senator Harkin predicted on the Senate floor Thursday that if Senate can pass the bill with bipartisan support, the House will agree to the Senate version of the bill and pass it on to President Obama for ratification.
Sadly, some agribusiness and produce industry groups, including United Fresh, remain opposed to the Tester-Hagan amendment, and apparently view the one week recess as an invitation to try to scuttle the deal and thereby jeopardize the entire bill. There have been a rash of letters from these groups during the course of the week, each of which has included very substantial distortions of the truth about what the Tester-Hagan portion of the Manager’s amendment does. We trust that Senators will not be deceived by the disinformation campaign and will stick with the bipartisan managers of the bill and get the job done on November 29.
Categories: Food Safety