With only a little over three months to go before the current farm bill expires (Sept. 30), farmers, lobbyists and advocates are coming out of the woodwork to press their issues. Last Thursday the Senate passed its version of the bill called, “S.3420, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012,” which received praise from the White House for making “meaningful progress toward the Administration’s goals.”
Meanwhile, Senators have introduced 80 amendments to the bill, popcorn has become the symbol for out of control spending and unlikely adversaries are coming together in the name of federal egg production standards — all before the House has yet to release its own version of the bill.
See what’s being said about these issues below:
31 Senators submit 80 amendments
It’s never easy passing a bill, but passing this bill is notoriously troublesome. After the Senate submitted their version of the farm bill last Thursday, their job was hardly done. 31 Senators (from both parties) submitted 80 amendments that the Senate is now in the lengthy process of voting on.
The many proposals give a feel for the wide range of issues included in this huge piece of legislation. Among them are amendments to increase criminal penalties for food safety violations, a mandated study on the relationship between obesity and sugar-sweetened beverages, the promotion of maple syrup research and the elimination of the farmers market and local food promotion program.
For a complete list of the amendments and the senators who proposed them see Eddie Gehman Kohan’s post on Obama Foodorama.
Popcorn becomes farm bill spending poster child
In May, Nebraska’s senators sneakily changed one word in the Senate’s farm bill proposal from “may” to “shall.” As in: the farm bill “shall” provide revenue subsidies for popcorn. This “technical correction” set off a firestorm of allegations over extraneous farm bill spending, spearheaded by none other than Sen. John McCain.
“This is a disgraceful example of how special interests can imbed themselves in a farm bill for generations,” McCain told The Hill. Not able to resist a pun, he continued, “There isn’t a kernel of evidence that they [popcorn producers] need this support from taxpayers.” McCain’s not the only one who is concerned with the recipients of the farm bill’s proposed $966 billion in funding — most recently, Participant Media released an infographic about the bill’s hidden costs.
Teaming up in the name of eggs
For the past decade, the Humane Society (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers (UEP) have been locked in a feud. The reason? Cruel egg-production practices. The HSUS has been calling for the ban of confining battery hen cages, while the UEP has been doing everything in its power to resist. But now the HSUS is giving up on its state-by-state attacks on the UEP, and in an unprecedented move is joining forces with the enemy to present a joint amendment to the Senate Farm Bill that calls for improved living conditions for egg-laying hens.
It’s hard to decipher what benefits the UEP stands to gain from this proposal, but it seems to center around the UEP’s hope that federal standards for the hens might be less progressive than the state laws the HSUS was working on pushing through. For more behind the two groups’ motives see Michele Simon’s piece in Food Safety News.