Agribusiness shows its true colors

Last week, the Senate voted 74-25 to move to consideration of S.510, the Food Safety Modernization Act.  After thirty hours of debate and behind-the-scenes negotiations, the Senators released a final Managers Amendment that includes a compromise version of the Tester-Hagan amendment.  Thank you to all our members who have called and written over the last several months to help protect local foods!

But even though an agreement was reached on the Tester-Hagan amendment last week, the issue is still not over.  The final vote on the bill has been delayed until Monday, November 29, due to disagreements over amendments relating to the health care bill and a ban on earmarks.  And, in the meantime, Agribusiness has shown its true colors.

For over a year, the big Agribusiness trade organizations have supported passage of S.510.  From Agribusinesss perspective, the bill was a win-win: they could absorb the costs of the regulations because of their size; theyd gain good PR for supposedly improving food safety practices; and the competition created by local food producers, which is rapidly growing, would be crushed by the regulatory burdens.

This was only speculation until now.  But when the Senators agreed to include the Tester-Hagan amendment in the bill, to exempt small-scale direct-marketing producers from some of the most burdensome provisions, twenty Agribusiness trade organizations fired off a letter stating that they would now oppose the bill.

The letter from the Agribusiness groups states: [B]y incorporating the Tester amendment in the bill, consumers will be left vulnerable to the gaping holes and uneven application of the law created by these exemptions. In addition, it sets an unfortunate precedent for future action on food safety policy by Congress that science and risk-based standards can be ignored.

http://www.unitedfresh.org/assets/files/Letter%20on%20Passage%20of%20S%20%20510%20and%20Tester%20Amendment.pdf

What science and risk?  No one has produced any data or evidence of any widespread problems caused by local producers and marketed directly to consumers.  All of the major foodborne illness outbreaks have been caused by products that went through the long supply chains of Agribusiness.
Agribusinesss real concern about the Tester-Hagan amendment isnt food safety, but the precedent set by having Congress recognize that small, direct-marketing producers are different, and should be regulated differently than large Agribusinesses.

Agribusiness is trying to convince the Senators to pull the Tester-Hagan amendment back out.  While the amendment is currently part of the Managers Package  the amended version of the bill agreed to by six bipartisan sponsors  nothing is certain until the actual vote.

ACTION TO TAKE
This Thanksgiving week, please take a moment to call or email your Senators to tell them to hold firm on KEEPING the Tester-Hagan amendment part of the bill.  

You can call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or go to www.senate.gov to find their website (if the phone lines are busy, the best way to reach them is through the Contact Page on their website)


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