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Senate Passes Farm Bill With Few Amendments

On Monday, June 10, the Senate passed its version of the 2013 Farm Bill. Of hundreds of proposed amendments, on everything from labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and banning genetically engineered salmon, to protecting honeybees, curbing the over-use of antibiotics on factory farm animals and allowing U.S. farmers to grow industrial hemp, less than a dozen were given a vote.

Lawmakers voted down (27-71) the Sanders Amendment to affirm the existing right of states to label genetically engineered food. If you haven’t already, please find out how your Senators voted and call and email them to let them know what you think. Another opportunity to respond to your Senators' votes is on July 4th. Following on the tremendous success of the March Against Monsanto actions that drew 2 million participants worldwide, Moms Across America is calling for Right to Know contingents to join Independence Day parades.

While it's incredibly disappointing that so few Senators were willing to show their support for states' rights to label GMOs, it's important to note that this vote didn't take those rights away. No doubt, this is a blow to Monsanto and the other biotech and GMO food companies that are furiously lobbying the federal government in an attempt to overturn laws like the ones that will soon be signed by Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Maine Gov. Paul LePage and that Washington, Vermont and many other states are likely to pass. Please sign our petition opposing any attempt by Congress to take away states' rights to label GMOs and join our grassroots efforts to make sure that every one of the Senators who voted against states' rights to label GMOs gets a visit from their voters.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) amendment to restore $4.1 billion/ten year in cuts to nutrition assistance for hungry families was defeated by a 70-26 vote.

The Senate passed (59-X) an amendment – the Durbin-Coburn amendment – that takes a bold first step towards reforming ballooning crop insurance subsidies for wealthy mega-farms in the 2013 Farm Bill. This common-sense, long overdue amendment will save taxpayers over 1.3 billion dollars and will ensure maximum support goes only to those who need it, not a handful of mega-farms.

A vote on Sen. Jeff Merkley's (D-OR) amendment #978 to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act was blocked by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), but Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) offered a compromise, giving her word that Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) wouldn't be able to get Monsanto's rider renewed without a vote and full debate. (Sen. Blunt had previously managed to slip the language unnoticed into a mammoth spending bill, known as the Continuing Resolution, which funds the government through September 30.) Stabenow's promise is a preliminary victory and the first step on the way to repeal, but now we need to convince a majority of the Senate to agree to restore the judiciary branch's power to halt the planting of illegal GMOs. Take Action! Repeal the Monsanto Protection Act!

Unlike the Monsanto Protection Act amendment, most amendments died a quiet death without debate. These include (sorted by subject matter) amendments to...

• … label genetically engineered food. (Boxer Amendments 1025 and 1026)
• … ban genetically engineered salmon. (Begich Amendment 934)

• … save the honeybees. (Boxer Amendment 1027)

• … give organic farmers equal access to funds for environmental improvement. (Leahy Amendment 1093)

• … add climate change mitigation to conservation programs. (Whitehouse Amendment 1058)

• … address factory farms’ drug abuse problem, responsible for antibiotic-resistant superbugs that infect hundreds of thousands and kill tens of thousands of Americans each year. (Gillibrand Amendment 940)
• … reign in the factory farm and meatpacking cartels that subject contract farmers to abusive practices that reduce food quality, animal welfare and worker safety. (Grassley Amendment 969, Rockefeller Amendment 993, Tester Amendment 971, and Enzi Amendments 981 and 982)

• … legalize industrial hemp. (Wyden Amendment 952)

• … increase funding for eat-local and farm-to-consumer programs. (Brown Amendment 1088)
 • … place long-overdue limits of $50,000 on crop insurance premium subsidies for America’s wealthiest large-scale farmers. (Shaheen Amendment 926)

• … make sure farmers who get federal money for irrigation aren’t wasting water. (Udall Amendment 1049)

Now, work on the Farm Bill shifts to the US House of Representatives, which will consider amendments to its version of the bill during the week of June 17.
Alexis Baden-Mayer is Political Director for the OCA.