Rep. Nolan Spearheads Support for Nutrition, Conservation, Forest Projects Research, Healthy Foods, and Regulatory Reform as Agriculture Committee Passes 2013 Farm Bill
May 17, 2013
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) . . . U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan joined a bipartisan majority of Democrats and Republicans late Tuesday evening as the House Agriculture Committee passed the 2013 Farm Bill on a 36-10 vote.
Officially titled the Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act, the bill would reduce the federal deficit by $33.3 billion over ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Among many important changes to current policy, the bill would end direct payments, reform dairy policy, and preserve provisions such as the federal sugar program, which operates at no cost to taxpayers.
“The committee considered more than one hundred amendments, many if not most with bipartisan support,” Nolan noted. “We won important victories for the forest product and seafood industries, for healthy food farm-to-market initiatives, and for regulatory streamlining and reform in a number of areas.”
“Unfortunately, we did not prevail in restoring desperately needed funds for supplemental nutrition for families in need. Nor did we win the fight in committee to restore funding to the Conservation Stewardship Program, which is so popular and beneficial in Minnesota and throughout Rural America. But we will continue to fight those battles as the bill reaches the floor of the House and goes on to conference committee. All in all, there was good bi-partisan debate, and the bill improves public policy in many areas.”
Nolan authored or sponsored a number of key amendments to:
Restore Supplemental Nutrition Funds (SNAP): The committee considered but voted down a Nolan-sponsored amendment that would have restored funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The FARRM Act proposed $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP, which is more than $4 billion above what was cut in the committee-passed bill in 2012, and $16 billion more than what was included in the Senate-passed farm bill.
- About 1 in 10 Minnesota residents receives SNAP benefits, the majority being families with children, and a large percentage being families with elderly or disabled members.
Support the Conservation Stewardship Program: The committee considered but voted down two Nolan-authored amendments to support the popular Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
- The first amendment would have increased the amount of land eligible for the program from 8.695 million acres to 10.348 million acres included in the Senate bill and agreed to during negotiations by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.
- The second amendment would have streamlined and simplified the CSP application process.
Promote Forest Products Research: The committee adopted a Nolan-authored amendment to direct the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory to conduct research demonstrating the benefits of wood as an environmentally-friendly building material.
Repeal a Duplicative Catfish Inspection Program: The committee adopted a Nolan-sponsored amendment to repeal a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill that transferred inspection of catfish from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- FDA regulates all other commercial seafood. Under current law, if a seafood processor such as Morey’s in Motley, MN, wanted to add catfish to its list of products, they would be forced to go through two entirely different regulatory processes.
Support Farm-to-Market/Healthy Foods: The committee adopted a Nolan-sponsored amendment authorizing funds for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), a public-private partnership to help fresh food/farm market retailers become established in underserved neighborhoods and communities.
- In 2011, the Duluth Farmers Market received an $86,869 grant that was used to purchase a “kitchen on wheels” to demonstrate the preparation of healthy foods.
Clarify Imported Seeds Inspection Rules: The committee adopted a Nolan-sponsored amendment to clarify the manner in which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires inspection of seed imports treated with pesticides.
Nolan Amendments passed by the full Committee:
Promote Forest Products Research – In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Forest Service made a commitment to use wood in their buildings, and to promote wood for its renewable, environmentally-friendly qualities. They also agreed to increase research and technology transfers that would position wood as a green building material in the marketplace. However, they need to work on honoring their commitment. This amendment directs the Forest Products Laboratory to conduct research demonstrating the benefits of wood as a building material, something that will benefit our forest industry in northeastern Minnesota.
Nolan-supported provisions included in the Committee-passed bill:
Repeal a Duplicative Catfish Inspection Program – The 2008 Farm Bill included an unnecessary provision that transferred inspection of catfish from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to USDA, even though all other commercial seafood is regulated by FDA, which meant that even if seafood processors – such as Morey’s in Motley, MN – wanted to add catfish to their list of products, they’d have to endure two entirely separate regulatory processes. This unnecessary change was highlighted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) numerous times as a high risk for waste, fraud, and duplication. Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has deemed catfish a “low-risk” food, meaning USDA has no reason to take oversight. Establishing this office would cost taxpayers $30 million up-front, and a whopping $170 million over ten years.
Authorize the Healthy Food Financing Initiative – In 2011, the Duluth Farmers Market received an $86,869 grant to purchase a “kitchen on wheels” in order to demonstrate how to prepare healthy foods and to expand access to SNAP recipients. This kitchen on wheels was made possible by the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), which is a national public-private partnership that attracts investment in underserved communities by providing critical loan and grant financing to heap fresh food retailers overcome the higher initial barriers to entry into underserved communities. HFFI also supports renovation and expansion of existing stores so they can provide healthier food choices. Healthy food retail improves the economic health and well-being of communities; smaller food retailers and farmers markets can also bolster the local economy and contribute to a healthy neighborhood business environment.
Clarify Regulations for Seed Imports – For the past few years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been inconsistently requiring pesticide-treated seed imports to submit to additional EPA inspections that are required for conventional chemical pesticides. This results in confusion and delays that farmers cannot afford, especially during the critical and short planting period in Minnesota. This amendment, which is supported by the American Seed Trade Association, the Minnesota Crop Retailers Association, and the EPA, would clarify that seeds treated with pesticide should not be managed under the same rules as conventional pesticide shipments, without affecting any other laws or regulations regarding seed or pesticides.