By Rady Ananda
While over 200 organizations lobbied on the Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510), no one seemed to notice an unconstitutional section in the bill until after it passed on Tuesday. That day, Roll Call advised that the bill contained a provision, Sec. 107, allowing the Senate to raise revenues. This violates Article I, Section 7, of the U.S. Constitution, granting that power exclusively to the House. S.510 opponents now celebrate the House’s use of the “blue slip process” to return the bill to the Senate.
The Alliance for Natural Health figures that:
“The only possible ‘quick fix’ would be a unanimous consent agreement in the Senate to strike that revenue-raising provision from the bill—but Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has already stated that he will oppose, so unanimity will be impossible.”
ANH believes it is unlikely that the Senate will return to a debate on S.510, given its full agenda. Its only other option is to “allow the bill to die at the end of this Congress [which means] a new Food Safety Bill will be introduced next year.”
After S.510 passed, President Obama issued a statement: “I urge the House — which has previously passed legislation demonstrating its strong commitment to making our food supply safer — to act quickly on this critical bill, and I applaud the work that was done to ensure its broad bipartisan passage in the Senate.”
Apparently, the Senate moved too quickly. Their overreach only supports the natural foods movement assertion that the entire bill is over-reaching as the federal government seeks complete control over local foods.
The Money and the Vote
In an email, Canada Health whistleblower Shiv Chopra noted, “It is all about corporate control of food and public health.” He’s not alone in believing that a ‘hidden corporate agenda’ is driving the federal government to impose itself on local food production and distribution. This belief is bolstered by a detailed look at the financial contributors in support of food control legislation. Open Secrets.org reports that 208 groups lobbied on S.510. According to an analysis by Maplight.org, financial supporters of S.510 include:
* The US Chamber of Commerce (no friend to small business);
* Kraft Foods North America (the world’s second largest food and beverage company;
* General Mills (which earned $15 billion in revenue in 2009); and the
* American Farm Bureau Federation (a Big Ag and insurance industry lobbyist that supports the use of genetically modified foods).
According to data at Open Secrets.org, AFB spent $9.5 million since 2009 to lobby for S.510 and against the House version. Food & Water Watch noted that AFB president Bob Stallman “condemn[s] consumers and farmers who oppose the industrial model of agriculture, referring to them as ‘extremists who want to drag agriculture back to the day of 40 acres and a mule.’” Clearly, the American Farm Bureau Federation does not favor small farms.
Breaking agribusiness lobby spending down by sector, Open Secrets reports that in 2009, the:
* Crop production and basic processing industry spent $20.3 million;
* Food processing and sales industry spent $30.2 million; and the
* Agriculture services and products industry spent $34.4 million.
In 2009 and 2010, Pepsi spent over $14 million and Coca-Cola spent $4.5 million on both S.510 and HR 2749 (the House version). Other groups supporting S.510 include the International Bottled Water Association, International Dairy Foods Association, International Foodservice Distributors Association, and the Snack Food Association. Hardly advocates of small producers or natural foods.
Under the guise of food ‘safety,’ food control legislation has been widely supported by major food industry lobbyists, who spent over $1 billion since 1998 to influence Congress. Do the American people even have a voice in food choice, when measured against the hundreds of millions of dollars multinational corporations foist on Congress to influence legislation?
Monsanto and the Tester Amendment
Two final comments are in order: one on the ineffectual Tester Amendment and the other on Monsanto’s influence over food safety.
First, the Tester Amendment “exemption” — defined as those generating less than $500,000 a year in revenue — is ludicrously low. Kraft Foods generates that every seven minutes : it earned $40 billion in revenue in 2009. There can be no single bill that adequately addresses food production when talking about producers as disparate as these. Small farms are in a different universe from multinational corporations.
A ten-million-dollar exemption is more reasonable. Farms earning less than $10 million a year are much more similar to Mom & Pop operations than they are to Kraft Foods or Monsanto. Farms earning between a half million and ten million annually are more likely than Mom & Pop to achieve product consistency and, because of a higher output, lower market price, thus appealing to locavores on three levels. That ludicrously low $500,000 figure only highlights the overreach of an obese federal government.
Second, the Tester Amendment does not exempt small food producers as broadly as proponents claim. Eric Blair noted that “even a ‘very small business’ making less than $500K per year, doing business ‘within 275 miles’ and directly with ‘end-user customers’ is still required to adhere to all of the [other] regulations” in the massive food control bill.
In order to qualify for exemption, he points out that small producers must file three years of detailed financial records, detailed hazard analysis plans, and detailed proof of compliance with local, county and state laws. Then, the Secretary of Health and Human Services must approve each exemption.
How many “food producers” who donate food to the homeless, or who supply homemade products at bake sales, county fairs, church bazaars, and community picnics are going to bother with such hyper-regulation? Obama’s vision of food “safety” destroys the local economy, and it destroys community relations.
S.510 opponent Sen. Tom Coburn has repeatedly stressed that the bill will not make our food supply any safer and will “drive small producers out of business.” No wonder so many multi-billion dollar corporations support it.
Finally, let’s not forget that Obama has stacked his administration with former employees of Monsanto, making Michael Taylor his Food Czar. Anything this Administration supports in the way of food control will surely benefit Monsanto, while harming the natural foods industry and small producers. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration is already waging a bureaucratic war on private food contracts and natural food producers.
Meanwhile, the battle for food freedom rages on, with a temporary reprieve now that S.510 has been recalled to the Senate Chamber.
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Maybe they just figured that no one in either house would read the bill and certainly would not pay attention to any kook who did take the time to read it. Well I’m not going to celebrate just yet, considering the government is the largest criminal organization in the country. Who knows what new rule they will make up to let this pass.
I’m convinced that “finding” this unconstitutional provision is all part of the dog and pony show by the puppet masters. Psyops, plain and simple.
how could the hundreds of lawyers within the government and on behalf of all those corporations not catch this? it is impossible to believe no one noticed.
in doing this research, it also dawned on me anew that the real target is all those medium sized farms and producers that pose genuine competition to the food giants. this bill clearly intends to wipe out all food production by anyone, except for those few multinationals.
I have just recently woken up to the food issue, after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” and then stumbling on the S. 510 issue on Facebook just a couple of days before the vote! So taking me as an example there is a lot more to be done in publicizing — I don’t even know what to call it — food politics? More specifically, I am looking for leadership. Focus is always the problem in these things. I mean, right now we need somebody knowledgeable to tell us what, if any, legislation is needed INSTEAD of S. 510. Since that bill is already on the table, seems to me the best strategy would be to try to rewrite it in order to put MORE restraints on Big Agro and LESS on small/organic farmers. Is somebody working on this? As Mike Gravel puts it (he is taking on 9/11 now), we need an ACTIONABLE ISSUE, i.e., specific proposals and language to implement what we want. Are there people already doing this? And by the way, where are Barbara Kingsolver and her husband Stephen Hopp on this? People like that could provide powerful leadership.
welcome to the food wars, morrissey. Sen. Tom Coburn has drafted alternative legislation, but i couldn’t find it on his website.
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has a great article from Wyoming Rep. Sue Wallis about their Wyoming Food Freedom bill that is scheduled for a vote in 2011 at http://farmtoconsumer.org/wyoming-food-freedom-wallis.htm
I think everyone should get a copy of the bill and send it to their local state rep. telling them you would like the same law in your state.
Here in NY we can pretty much buy any kind of free range meat, clean produce and raw diary products right from the farm without a problem. I’m not sure if that’s due to the laws we have or just a lack of respect for them. As far as the legality of a matter goes, I prefer the “don’t ask, don’t tell me” approach. But we do have a civic duty to our neighbors to oppose these repressive laws by all non-violent means we have available to us. Good luck in the fight.
Rady, This is a great article!
Thanks so much.
I really appreciate you!
MORNING PLANT YOUR DREAM BLOG
#S510 Faltering: The “Beet” Gains Momentum in Washington:
keep up the good work
thanks, Mike — agreed.
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I’m not a lawyer and don’t even live in the US so I can’t help with the nitty gritty, I’m just looking for a nose to follow. I appreciate the site and am linking from Facebook, if that’s any help. Since I’ve just read a little about “net neutrality,” the similarity with “food safety” strikes me. The terms are used by different people to mean different things, with a lot of intentional confusion. It’s Big Media wanting to shut down the little guys just like Big Agro shutting out the small(er) farmers, and in both cases it’s all of us who suffer. Germany (where I live) seems to have better protective laws against GM farming than the US — maybe something could be learned from them — although here too the so-called “conservatives” (a terrible misnomer) want to head in the direction of GM.
Since everybody pretends to be “for” food safety and net neutrality (like motherhood, who’s against it?) maybe we need some terminological clarity. How about “food diversity” as parallel with “net diversity,” meaning giving the little guys a fighting chance (“equal chance” I guess is unrealistic). But in both areas, the net and food, it’s pretty clear that the “market,” i.e. the public, is more than willing to support give the little guys.
good idea, morrissey ~ more precision with language to overcome double-speak.
and thank you for linking to us
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For all the folks in Ohio be aware that this bill is being SUPPORTED by ProgressOhio. We need to understand who is behind this bill. While big Ag is pushing it, so are the Washington statists like ThinkProgress and their cohorts. Are we getting the picture yet concerning Obama and his merry little band of “progressives?”
We have Republicans in bed with Big Ag; Democrats in bed with Big Ag and Big Government…hey it’s starting to look like a nice little marriage between the socialists and fascists.
“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” ~Benito Mussolini
yep, Dems and Repubs are owned by corporations. This is class war. All those groups who support food control legislation are either the voice of controlled opposition or are woefully ill informed.
btw, it does not surprise me about ProgressOhio — they also support using computerized voting systems (which can be hacked without a trace).
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Over here, in Greece, we have been hearing about this “safe food” bill for the last 3-4 weeks, getting e-mails about it, etc. I asked a few friends who live in the States about it, but nobody seemed to know or have heard anything… it seemed so far-fetched to me, so I assumed it was one of those conspiracy-type rumours, which I generally have no time for… and judging from this article I found today it seems to be true!!!!
This madness has not reached us here, yet, but it soon may…
If the bill has been passed (even in this sly backhand manner) I don’t know what you can do about it other than set up “rebel farms”, but if it hasn’t, and you can still act, please do not stop informing informing informing the public… This is too important to just pass…
thx, syn ~ it’s a food control bill having nothing to do with safety. former attorneys for and executives of biotech corporations like Monsanto now fill key seats in the US government related to food control. This bill will wipe out mid-size farms, leaving only the multinationals producing our food. That move will entrench GMOs, chemicals and drugs in the food supply.
Not only will that increase their profits, but by the illness caused from eating such toxic food, doctors and hospitals will also profit enormously.
in Greece they are doing similar things to the economy as a whole, passing bill after bill which wipes out decades of working people’s rights, closing down small thriving businesses, etc.
in the meantime, we are trying to organising small farms and eco-communities… exchanging seeds (for free, and, as it turns out, illegally) and expertise… the greeks have been under pressure from the EU to accept gmos… unfortunately the media confuse and mislead, like they do in the States (and everywhere), but fortunately we are a smaller country, so maybe it isn’t such a lot of work to get information across to people (there’s fewer of us!)
keep up the good fight, Greece! You can be proud to be GMO-free.
Great article. I just posted it on BryanMarcel.com with full credit given. You should get a ping back. Let me know if you don’t.
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