WASHINGTON, March 9, 2016 - Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts is working to get agreement with Democrats on a biotech disclosure bill that could get passed next week just ahead of the Senate’s Easter recess. Roberts planned to meet with the committee’s ranking Democrat, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, on the issue today.

“We will meet and try to get a framework and see where we are. The leader is very insistent that we’re going to vote on this next week,” Roberts told Agri-Pulse, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Negotiations are down to the fine details of the legislation and whether, for example, there would be a trigger in the bill to make disclosure of biotech ingredients mandatory if goals for a voluntary system aren’t met. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., has proposed a plan that would make disclosure mandatory if voluntary disclosure doesn’t cover 85 percent of relevant food products within four years.

Roberts, R-Kan., would need the support of at least six Democrats for the bill even if all 54 Republicans are present and vote for it. Asked if he would have unanimous support from the GOP, he said, “We’re working on that. We know where to go, who to talk to.”

Industry lobbyist Randy Russell said the negotiations have made “good progress.” “We’re optimistic that this is going to be dealt with before the (Easter) break,” he said.

The House, which passed a very different bill last summer, would have to approve the Senate measure before it could go to President Obama for his signature. Backers of the legislation say they need a bill before Vermont’s first-in-the-nation state labeling law takes effect July 1.


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