Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Legislative Alert - FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act

To begin the week of 11/29 in the lame duck session, there are two main pieces of legislation we need to watch. On the house side, Nancy Pelosi plans to debate the DREAM Act to allow a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants sometime this week. No specific date has been set for a vote – we’ll keep you updated on the status as we find out more.

In the Senate, the plan is to resume debate and vote on S510, the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act. The last record votes held on this bill were on November 17 and 18. A cloture vote was held on 11/17. All Democrats except Ben Nelson voted for cloture, and they were joined by the following 16 Republicans:

  • Alexander (TN)
  • Borrasso (WY)
  • Brown (MA)
  • Burr (NC)
  • Collins (ME)
  • Corker (TN)
  • Enzi (WY)
  • Grassley (IA)
  • Gregg (NH)
  • Johanns (NE)
  • Lemieux (FL)
  • Lugar (IN)
  • Snowe (ME)
  • Thune (SD)
  • Vitter (LA)
  • Voinovich (OH)
*Lisa Murkowski of Alaska didn’t vote.

On November 18 on the vote to proceed with debate on the bill, Borasso, Burr, Corker, Enzi, Grassley, Lemieux, Lugar and Thune changed their vote to against S510. Alexander, Gregg, Johanns and Vitter didn’t vote, and Brown, Collins, Snowe and Voinovich continued to vote for S510.

Senator Ensign also didn’t vote on 11/18. We need to remind him that every vote in this lame duck session counts, and encourage him to miss no more votes on this issue.

Introduced by Senator Durbin in 2009, this bill was reported out of committee in December 2009 and remained in limbo until it was put forward for review on 9/29/2010. This bill seems to be a solution in search of a problem that either doesn’t exist and/or already has sufficient regulation in place. The most dangerous part of this bill is that most of the actual rules that food producers would be required to abide by aren’t in the legislation itself, but rather would be written by the FDA after the fact, with no further congressional oversight. This is why it’s critical for the Democrats to get this passed in the lame duck session.

A review of the money trail on this bill shows that it is heavily backed by big agribusiness, and as I researched the bill it became clear that this is a battle between corporate farms and smaller local growers, farmers markets, etc. The smaller growers clearly see this as an attempt to marginalize them and even put them out of business. If they’re right, this bill has serious implications for farming in Nevada and the west. Additionally, this bill increases FDA staff by over 1,200 employees and costs over $1.4 Billion over five years.

Senator Tom Coburn has released a detailed summary of problems with this legislation, which you can review by clicking here.

Because of the major changes that this bill makes to established legislation, as well as the open ended regulatory decisions delegated to the FDA in S510, these bills should not be considered until the new Congress is seated in 2011. It’s important to have major changes like this debated by a Congress that is accountable to those that elected them, not by a Congress that the people voted out of office just a couple of weeks ago.

Please contact Senators Ensign and Reid and ask them to vote against S510:

- Senator Harry Reid (D-NV); DC Phone: 202-224-3542; DC FAX: 202-224-7327
   
- Senator John Ensign (R-NV); DC Phone: 202-224-6244; DC FAX: 202-228-2193
   
If you’d like to contact the senators listed above that are on the wrong side of this issue or are on the fence, their contact info is available at:

Congress Merge: Online Congressional Directory

Just click on the state for the Senator you want and their contact info will be shown.

Harry Reid and those pushing for passage of this bill are counting on the fact that we’re not paying attention. Please let them know that we are very much awake…thank you!

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