Farm Bill – Senate Markup

It was quick – the US Senate this morning spent a morning discussing the 2013 Farm Bill in preparation for a full floor debate. I was able to listen to most of the discussion as it streamed live from the Senate chambers. There were a couple surprises – you can see the amendments discussed here.

First, something we’re following particularly closely – COOL, or Country of Origin Labeling. Sen. Johanns proposed an amendment that would repeal COOL. Luckily he knew from the outset it would not pass, and he withdrew the amendment. There’s one coming up in the House version though, sponsored by Austin Scott of Georgia, and there is also a provision in the House version to “study” COOL. Something to watch closely.

One of the biggest surprises to me, mostly since we don’t usually track bees, was North Dakota Sen. Heitkamp’s amendment #2 which will support honey bees as pollinators. We all know bee populations in the US are having problems, which means big problems for the food industry, so we’re happy to see this included in the bill.

Also great news is that Sen. Cowan’s amendment #4 passed, which provides loans to producers to promote local and regional foods, including producers engaged in direct-to-consumer and direct-to-institution marketing and selling. This is GREAT news for our Farm to School Committee, part of the nation-wide Farm to School Network (Dakota Rural Action is the South Dakota state lead organization). We’re looking forward to supporting this as the Farm Bill moves forward.

South Dakota’s own Sen. Thune’s first amendment was adopted and creates a sod-saver tracking program, looking at what grassland is converted to cropland. It is a provision we support; at the rapid pace of conversation we run the risk of repeating past mistakes when it comes to land destruction, and we need to know exactly. how much land is being converted. Take a minute to thank Senator Thune for his amendment.

The most detailed amendment tracking I’ve seen is from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which you can see here (I’d highly recommend checking it out): http://sustainableagriculture.net/farm-bill-amendment-tracker/

Tomorrow it is up in the House. Listen live at 9:00CT/10:00MT, and make sure Rep. Kristi Noem knows how you feel about COOL, local food, and sustainable agriculture!

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