Monday, August 23, 2010

Diane Feinstein Is My Hero

Hurdles remain for food safety bill
By Tom Karst
Published on 08/20/2010 02:26PM
The Packer

The finish line may be in sight, but the race for Senate food safety reform isn’t over yet.

Despite the release of the bipartisan manager’s amendment for Senate food safety reform legislation Aug. 12, there are hurdles to cross before the bill is voted on, said Kelli Ludlum, director of congressional relations for the Washington, D.C.-based American Farm Bureau Federation.

The Senate apparently plans to take the legislation up fairly early when it returns in September, she said.

“They are trying to get a unanimous consent agreement on floor time,” she said.

One contentious issue that remains unsolved is the effort to amend the bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to restrict the use of the chemical Bisphenol A (known as BPA) in food and beverage containers.

Another point of uncertainty is how an amendment by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., to exempt smaller operations from some requirements under the legislation will be received. “I think Tester is still planning on offering the amendment,” Ludlum said.

If those issues aren’t resolved and a time agreement is not in hand, Ludlum said it is unlikely Senate leaders will bring the legislation to the floor.

“If they can’t get an agreement with Feinstein, I don’t think there is any way this comes to the floor before the election,” she said.

Tester’s amendment would exempt operations with adjusted gross incomes under $500,000 from some requirements.

Farm Bureau doesn’t not support food safety exemptions based on revenue measures, she said.

“We think there are some compelling arguments for exemptions based on risk profiles or perhaps the type of production, but in terms of just a blanket exemption based on a dollar figure, I don’t know how you make that argument in the context of food safety,” she said.

She said Farm Bureau and food manufacturers have problems with Feinstein’s aggressive attempt to restrict BPA. “It’s a potential deal breaker.”

Although the group is generally pleased with changes in the manager’s amendment relating to food recall procedures and the pathway to traceability, Ludlum said the Farm Bureau has not taken a position yet on the Senate legislation.

Tags: food safety , legislation , regulation

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