by Marion Nestle
Jun 14 2012

Would you believe 80 (no, >300!) amendments to the farm bill?

Senators, 31 of them, have introduced 80 amendments to the Senate version of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012—the farm bill.

Obamafoodorama provides a handy list of the amendments.  The Senate is working through them right now.

Here are a few selections from that list, just to give you a feel for the level of detail involved in this bill.

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn: Make co-ops and other entities that get a business and industry direct or guaranteed loan for a wind energy project ineligible for other federal benefits
  • Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska: Require the Agricultural Research Service to operate at least one facility in each state
  • Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash: Encourage the purchase of pulse crop products for school meals
  • Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md: Establish conservation compliance for federal crop insurance
    Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla:
    Limit crop insurance premium subsidies to farmers with an average adjusted gross income of $750,000. (With Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.)
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.: Strike the reduction in the food stamp program and increase funding for the fresh fruit and vegetable program through cuts to crop insurance
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: Replace the food stamp program with a block grant [The Senate voted yesterday to defeat this one]
  • Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa: Increase funding for the beginning farmer and rancher program
  • Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev:  Prohibit members of Congress from participating in farm programs.
  • Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis: Allow the fresh fruit and vegetable program to include dried, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh
  • Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass: Extend eligibility for certain emergency loans to commercial fishermen
  • Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.: Require a study on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on obesity.
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.: Increase criminal penalties for certain knowing and intentional violations relating to food that is misbranded or adulterated
  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz: Repeal the sugar program [The Senate voted yesterday to defeat this one]
  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky: Authorize the interstate shipment of unpasteurized milk
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.: Promote maple syrup research and production
  • Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.: Prohibit the Labor secretary from finalizing a proposed rule related to child labor on farms
  • Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa: Eliminate the farmers market and local food promotion program
  • Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore: Amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana; Establish a federal task force on childhood obesity; Require the Agriculture secretary to carry out pilot projects to improve nutrition under the food stamp program.

Now is the time to let your Senators know where you stand on these issues.  The farm bill still has a long way to go—the House hasn’t taken it up yet—but what the Senate decides will surely be influential.  Get busy!

Update, 4:00 p.m.:  Food Chemical News report that 80 is a gross underestimation of the number of amendments; the number since yesterday has neared or exceeded 300.

Update, 4:15 p.m.: Here’s a link to the Sunlight Foundation’s report on the money behind the farm bill.  About sugar, it says:

Sugar. On Wednesday, big sugar beat back an attempt by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to eliminate a decades-old sugar price support program. The Senate voted 50 to 46 to table her amendment.

Sugar interests such as American Crystal Sugar and Flo-Sun Inc. are among the biggest campaign contributors in the agribusiness sector, giving to Democrats and Republicans alike.

The sugar industry gains strength from having two geographic strongholds–the South, where sugar cane is grown, and the mid-west, the source of sugar beets.

However, sugar’s opponents, the interests that buy sugar for their products, is also quite formidable. The Coalition for Sugar Reform, which supported the Shaheen amendment, include such heavyweights as the American Beverage Association, the Food Marketing Institute, and the Snack Food Association, which in turn have powerful corporate membership.

  • Kate

    The one from Chuck Schumer makes me giggle.

  • Michael Bulger
  • What is the sugar program that McCain wanted to repeal?

  • The whole thing is scam anyway.

  • Marion

    @Elizabeth: See the addition about sugar to today’s post. For details, see

  • FarmerJane

    The thing is that so many of these amendments have real meaning to someone. I was personally approached by maple syrup producers who are anxiously looking to the future as the put in trees that may not yield for decades to come, as they invest in sugar tapping and processing equipment and as they seek to develop markets. The honey producers here are screaming that they can’t compete with adulterated honey brought in from China and the dairy farmers are going under in most parts of the country. All through NY, fracking companies are dangling money in front of dairy farmers who are grossly discouraged from little or no support from the food movement folks. A lack of attention to one portion of this farm bill has foreseen and unforeseen consequences. Every single item has something that is life or death for people. Its a shame that it all “has” to be negotiated all at once.

  • Urgent! Oppose Senator Risch’s Hunting Amendment to Farm Bill!

    In April, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act (H.R. 4089), which as drafted, could allow much of the National Park System to be opened to hunting and recreational shooting.

    Senator Jim Risch of Idaho has now taken H.R. 4089 and filed it as an amendment to the Farm Bill which the U.S. Senate is currently debating.

    The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act includes language that purports to exclude national parks and national monuments from hunting and recreational shooting, but is so poorly drafted that it could result in hunting being permitted in national parks, like Yellowstone and the Great Smoky Mountains.

    This bill ignores the many designations of “national park unit” that also do not allow hunting, such as national historical park, national military park, national memorial, etc.

    Learn More and sign petition here :

  • Anthro

    Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis: Allow the fresh fruit and vegetable program to include dried, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh

    But dried, canned and frozen isn’t really “fresh”, now, is it?

    Also, what’s Senator Cantwell’s interest in “pulses”? Aren’t they just beans?

    Lo and behold: (Wikipedia)

    The term “pulse”, as used by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), is reserved for crops harvested solely for the dry seed. This excludes green beans and green peas, which are considered vegetable crops. Also excluded are crops that are mainly grown for oil extraction (oilseeds like soybeans and peanuts), and crops which are used exclusively for sowing (clovers, alfalfa). However, in common use these distinctions are not clearly made, and many of the varieties so classified and given below are also used as vegetables, with their beans in pods while young; cooked in whole cuisines; and sold for the purpose; for example, black eyed beans, lima beans and Toor or pigeon peas are thus eaten as fresh green beans, or cooked as part of a meal. Pulses are important food crops due to their high protein and essential amino acid content. Like many leguminous crops, pulses play a key role in crop rotation due to their ability to fix nitrogen.
    Just like words such as “bean” and “lentil”, the word “pulse” may also refer to just the seed, rather than the entire plant.

  • The farm bill is a joke. Who reads the information? Not the public. Who votes for the bill? Our politicians. I can say for sure that our school district does not read the farm bill amendments. We need more support to convince the schools how food is influenced by big business and then how big business influences politicians we vote for. Ultimately how our children will suffer in the future from business and politics interfering in the nutrition of our food.

  • An amendment by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, would have cut the amount paid to insurance companies to subsidize their costs in selling crop insurance. Last year, the government paid insurance companies $1.3 billion, and Ms. Gillibrand’s amendment would have reduced that amount to offset a $4.5 billion cut to the food stamp program. But the Senate rejected the amendment, 66 to 33.

    An amendment by Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, would allow the agriculture secretary to issue grants to promote the maple syrup industry.

    The farm bill would cut $23 billion from agriculture programs, mostly by eliminating direct payments and cutting financing for food stamps, which the Agriculture Committee said would contribute to reducing the deficit.