November 29, 2010

Issues  (check corresponding number in ‘Details’ and ‘Action’ Sections)

1.) Lame Duck Session Scheduled to Vote on “Food Safety” Bill

2.) It’s Official:  AFA is Now a “Hate Group”


1.) The ‘great’ sounding “Food Safety Modernization Act” S 510 is scheduled for a final vote today in the Senate.  Remember a cloture vote in the Senate passed by 74-25 on November 17th.  There will be a second cloture vote on the motion to proceed, followed by debate and votes on two amendments to be offered by Senator Coburn.  These are to be followed by debate and a vote on the Manager’s Amendment to the original S.510 bill. If successful, the vote on final bill passage follows.   The final Manager’s Amendment included an exemption for dietary supplements from Codex [1] food guidelines, exemption language for dietary supplement manufacturers and retailers from the conventional food company and distributor registration fees, reporting and product traceability requirements. The final Manager’s Amendment also included the Tester-Hagan [2] amendment exempting small farmers and retailers; organic farmers were already exempted from FDA registration fee, reporting, and product traceability requirements, for farms with less than $500,000 in gross receipts.  The compromise language was very close to the original Tester amendment, which is why Senators Tester and Hagan both voted in favor of moving the bill forward.  There is no guarantee that these amendments will remain in the final bill.  Remember the House has already passed a companion bill.

As explained by Senator Harkin, he and Senators Reid and Durbin had worked out an agreement in advance of Senate passage with House Democratic leadership to accept the Senate-passed bill, hold it at the House desk, and then vote on passage of the Senate bill.  This procedural maneuvering eliminates the usual joint Senate-House conference committee to work out differences with the Waxman and House passed Food Safety bill, H.R. 2749. If the House approves, the final version of the Senate Food Safety bill would then be sent to President Obama for signing into new law.”

Some problems:

a.) The legislation will cost $1.4 billion over 5 years. This cost does not include an additional $230 million in expenditures that are directly offset by fees collected for those activities (re-inspections, mandatory recalls, etc.). The total cost of the bill is over $1.6 billion over 5 years.

b.) CBO estimates that implementing other provisions of S. 510 would increase non-FDA discretionary spending by $335 million over the 2011-2015 period. The bill would authorize three grant programs outside the purview of the FDA: School-based allergy and anaphylaxis management grants – $30 million annually; Food safety training, education, extension, outreach and technical assistance grants — $21 million over next five years; Food safety participation grants for states and Indian tribes — CBO estimates that implementing this provision would cost $83 million over the 2011-2015 period.

c.) Along with the grant programs, S. 510 also would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to participate in food safety activities and would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to enhance its participation in food safety activities. CBO estimates that EPA will incur costs of about $2 million annually. CDC is required to significantly increase its surveillance activities, which CBO estimates will cost $100 million over 5 years. CDC is also required to set up “Centers of Excellence” at selected state health departments to prepare for food outbreaks at a cost of $4 million annually.

d.)   Burdensome new regulations: Performance standards: the bill gives the Secretary the authority to “issue contaminant-specific and science-based guidance documents, action levels, or regulations;” traceability: FDA is required to establish a “product tracing system within the FDA” based and develop additional record keeping requirements for foods determined to be “high risk;” standards for produce safety: for produce, this bill gives FDA the authority to create commodity-specific safety standards for produce; fees: allows FDA to assess fees for compliance failures (recalls and re-inspections). These fees give FDA incentive to find reasons to re-inspect a facility or order a mandatory recall-the only ways they can collect money for their efforts; mandatory recall authority: provides FDA with the authority to force a recall (and collect fees to pay for it).

2.)     The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Winter 2010 Intelligence Report lists 18 ‘anti-gay groups.’  The list includes 13 ‘hate groups’ of which one is the national office of the American Family Association.

Action Steps

1.)     Contact Senators Arlen Specter and Bob Casey, Jr. and ask them to vote ‘No’ on S 510 — we do not need more burdensome government regulations; we need to use the existing regulations more wisely.   Click here for contact info.

2.)     Click here to read our news release concerning the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list – especially pay attention to the remarks from those who explain what the Southern Poverty Law Center has become.

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