The Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday marked up and approved a new farm bill 15-5. While this mega-legislation that sets farm policy for five years is mostly focused on nutrition programs like SNAP and commodity programs like crop insurance and conservation, there are a couple notable food safety mentions in the bill:
Under a section titled, “high priority research and extension initiative,” the legislation directs the Secretary of Agriculture to make grants and enter into contracts or cooperative agreements with non profits, training centers at universities, etc to establish a comprehensive food safety training network. The bill would authorize Congress to give $20 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture each fiscal year to accomplish this.
Under a section titled, “study of food safety insurance,” the legislation directs the government to contract with “1 more qualified entities” to conduct a study within one year to determine “whether offering policies that provide coverage for specialty crops from food safety contamination issues will benefit agricultural producers.”
The bill requests the study evaluate different plans that could provide protection for production or revenue during food safety disasters like health advisories, outbreaks, or recalls that might hurt business.
The House Agriculture Committee will hold their markup today. Both versions will then need to go to the House and Senate floors to be approved and then reconciled. The Senate is expected to move forward this month.
Currently, the most controversial difference between the House and Senate versions is the degree to which they cut SNAP benefits, otherwise known as food stamps. The Senate version passed out of committee this week cuts $4.1 billion in benefits while the House version seeks to cut $20 billion. Last year, SNAP benefits were at a historic high, with $74.6 billion in benefits doled out to the more than 47 million Americans who utilized the program last fiscal year.
The Senate farm bill text and a list of amendments can be found here.