Trade associations representing
everything from small farmers to pork producers are looking to the Senate
for quick fixes to a food safety bill that passed the House Thursday.
Several say they want to see the bill become law in order to improve the
safety of a national food chain that is in dire need of reform. Many,
however, believe the legislation is in need of improvement while others
will work to defend language in the House bill that protects their
want to make it better in the Senate," said Roger Johnson, president
of the National Farmers Union. "We just want to make sure it gets at
Johnson said the NFU wants to see a food safety bill passed but there are
some tweaks that still could be made. For example, Johnson believes a $500
annual producer fee that will help pay for increased inspections should not
be flat but be scaled to production levels or smaller facilities should be
NFU lobbyists plan to meet with Senate aides during the August recess and
"when the bill looks like it will be picked up, we will be right quick
to be a part of that," Johnson said.
Representatives for agricultural groups are looking to food safety legislation
by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that has attracted co-sponsors from both sides
of the aisle as a vehicle in the Senate.
But it is still unclear on who will take up the food safety bill in the
upper chamber, which passed in the House 283-142 Thursday. In addition, the
legislation will have to compete for floor space with a number of other
priorities in the fall, such as healthcare reform and a climate change
bill, creating "a bottleneck," according to Johnson.
"We just intend to work the Senate side as hard as we did the House
side," said Christine Bushway, executive director for the Organic
Trade Association (OTA).
OTA lobbied hard to include language in the House bill that would avoid
overregulation of organic farming, which already follows several safety
practices outlined in the legislation, such as inspection by third parties
and being able to trace the food supply.
Like OTA, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is lobbying the Senate
to avoid duplication of regulation for pork farmers. They will want to
protect is a provision that exempts products, facilities and farms raising
animals who are already regulated by U.S. Department of Agriculture from
coming under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The NPPC does take issue with a mandatory recall authority given to the FDA
in the House bill, which would give greater power to the safety agency and
less input from industry.
"It doesn’t allow the regulator to work with collaboratively with the
industry," said Jennifer Greiner, director of science and technology
at the NPPC. "On the meat side, we never told our regulator that ‘No,
we are not going to recall it.’"
In September, the NPPC is flying in its pig farmers to meet with senators
to show how their industry has already been working with regulators. But
Greiner said the trade association plans to keep up lobbying during the
recess as well.
"Those efforts will not stop. We will continue that over the
recess," Greiner said.