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Center for Food Safety Statement on 2014 Farm Bill Passage

February 4th, 2014
Center for Food Safety

Small victories buried in bill that promotes status quo: large-scale industrial agriculture

Contact: Abigail Seiler, 202-547-9359, pr@centerforfoodsafety.org

The Farm Bill is the most important food policy legislation that Congress considers. On the whole, it encompasses nearly all aspects of the food system and will shape the next 5 years of farm and food policy.  Unfortunately, the 2014 Farm Bill fails as a vehicle to capture the needs of the food movement. The few successes we cheer today are largely wins to keep harmful language out of the bill, not the reforms necessary to make our model of agriculture more sustainable in the long term. We remain optimistic that future food and farm legislation, with the support of the ever-growing food movement, can achieve a food system that works to the benefit of both society and the environment.

While the 2014 Farm Bill is laden with disappointing and short-sighted policies, it does include a number of bright spots.  In particular, the bill:

  • Excludes the intensely controversial amendment by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) that would have nullified a wide swath of state food safety, animal welfare, and worker protection laws;
  • Excludes language that was being pushed for by the powerful meat and poultry lobby who sought to cripple the current Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) requirement for meat, a widely popular program among consumer groups and small producers;
  • Fully funds vital organic farm programs, including a number of programs that seek to ensure we are expanding the number of organic farms in the U.S. to meet the surging consumer demand;
  • Excludes language aimed at restricting activities by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) in their efforts to protect poultry farmers from abusive contracts with poultry companies;
  • Includes language sponsored by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) to encourage that conservation programs are resulting in sufficient high-quality pollinator habitat; and
  • Includes language to support local and regional food networks, championed by Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

Of the disappointments, the bill:

  • Senselessly cut nearly $9 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly referred to as food stamps), threatening the food security of Americans across the country;
  • Decimated a critical pollinator protection provision that was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support by the House. The pollinator provision championed by Representatives Marcy Kaptur and Alcee Hastings was widely supported by farming, environmental and beekeeping organizations and businesses. Directing our government to thoroughly assess and monitor pollinator declines should have been an easy decision; however, it appears that this widely supported language was too much for the pesticide industry;
  • Includes language that could make it extremely difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to track the importation of genetically engineered and pesticide coated seeds and monitor their use; and
  • Failed to include any substantial reforms to crop insurance or our subsidy limits, further benefiting the wealthiest and large scale farms while leaving other programs and populations under-funded.

The greatest disappointment is the failure of this Farm Bill to address the immediate and long term sustainability of our agricultural system.  As the signature piece of legislation meant to support and grow our agricultural and food systems, opportunity for innovation and progress abounds. Yet Congress remains mired in outdated policies and beholden to the largest industry groups rather than the people of this country.  Center for Food Safety will continue to aggressively champion legislation aimed as redirecting the future of agriculture, emphasizing organic, regenerative agriculture, and beyond.

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