By Agri-Pulse Staff
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
Washington, Dec. 6 – Raising concerns about both the Senate's just-passed Food Safety bill and Obamacare, the Ranking Members of the House Agriculture and House Energy committees, Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Joe Barton (R-TX), warn fellow members of Congress that legislation should be based on “transparency, openness and regard for regular order” rather than rushed into law. The Dec. 6 “Dear Colleague” letter from Lucas and Barton to both Democratic and Republican House members states that:
“The House may soon consider another major piece of legislation under a process which has been closed to all but a few Members.
“A Senate version of the Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) has been sent to the House under a threat of take it or leave it. The Senate produced a package that is now opposed by national farm groups listed in the letter below. Farmers and other Americans have numerous policy concerns which should be aired and fully considered in a Committee of Conference as final legislation is drafted. This is the process that the Congress has historically followed, yet has been denied in almost every major piece of legislation considered during the 111th Congress.
“The last time we faced a threat of take it or leave it from the Senate, the House passed Obamacare. Because of the lack of transparency, openness and regard for regular order, Americans are learning, after passage, that they will lose their current health insurance plans even if they like them, that Congress cut $575 billion from Medicare to start a new entitlement, that Obamacare will increase health care costs, not decrease them, and that Obamacare will kill jobs, not create them.
“Within 24 hours of the Senate’s passage of S. 510, the Senate learned that it will have to pass S. 510 again due to an obvious constitutional issue. If the Senate missed such an obvious issue when it passed S. 510, it makes us wonder what else it missed. Let’s learn from the mistakes of Obamacare and find the problems before we pass legislation.
“As the House considers this legislation in the coming days, we ask that all of our colleagues support an inclusive process that allows for full discussion and consideration as we develop legislation on the important issue of food safety. While we may disagree on certain policy, we are united in our belief that the process should be open and transparent.”
December 1, 2010
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Boehner:
As you know, the Senate has completed its work on S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act and the legislation now goes to the House of Representatives. This bill contrasts significantly with H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act approved by the House of Representatives over 15 months ago. This elapsed time and the substantial differences that arise between the two versions demand a conference of the two houses to reconcile these differences.
In particular, exempting “small” farms from following federal food safety standards, as the Senate bill currently does, undermines the intent of credible food safety systems which are based on risk and science, not arbitrary criteria. Microbial contamination does not discriminate between small or large farms, customer base or proximity to market. The fresh produce industry has made immense strides enhancing food safety practices over the years knowing that any food borne illness outbreak affecting one or hundreds of people, also affects every single farmer who grows the implicated food. We worked constructively for years with lawmakers on food safety legislation, but the Senate-passed bill is bad public policy. With respect to produce, the choice between buying fruit and vegetables grown, packed and shipped under a strict set of food safety standards or commodities that are exempted, leaves the consumer vulnerable. In addition, in a world where customers demand and consumers expect compliance with food safety standards, the small businesses and farmers we represent may find themselves shut out of market opportunities.
Because this legislation will affect all Americans it is crucial that every step be taken to ensure the final legislation reflects the highest possible food safety standards based first and foremost on science and risk assessment. This is critical to maintaining the safety of our country’s food supply for everyone. Passage of this measure without reconciliation of key differences between the two versions falls short of the objectives ultimately undermining the original intent to strengthen and enhance our nation’s food safety system leaving consumers to digest a food safety bill that is short of comprehensive.
Again, we urge that a conference with the Senate be held on this important reform measure. We look forward to working with you to ensure that food safety legislation makes our nation’s food supply as safe as possible.
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