Big food businesses are battling to win government advantages for their industries.
Senators, 31 of them, have introduced 80 amendments to the Senate version of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 -- the farm bill.
Obamafoodorama provides a handy list of the amendments. The Senate is working through them right now.
Here are a few selections from that list, just to give you a feel for the level of detail involved in this bill.
- Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn: Make co-ops and other entities that get a business and industry direct or guaranteed loan for a wind energy project ineligible for other federal benefits
- Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska: Require the Agricultural Research Service to operate at least one facility in each state
- Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash: Encourage the purchase of pulse crop products for school meals
- Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md: Establish conservation compliance for federal crop insurance
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla: Limit crop insurance premium subsidies to farmers with an average adjusted gross income of $750,000. (With Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.)
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.: Strike the reduction in the food stamp program and increase funding for the fresh fruit and vegetable program through cuts to crop insurance
- Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: Replace the food stamp program with a block grant [The Senate voted yesterday to defeat this one]
- Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa: Increase funding for the beginning farmer and rancher program
- Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev: Prohibit members of Congress from participating in farm programs.
- Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis: Allow the fresh fruit and vegetable program to include dried, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh
- Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass: Extend eligibility for certain emergency loans to commercial fishermen
- Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.: Require a study on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on obesity.
- Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.: Increase criminal penalties for certain knowing and intentional violations relating to food that is misbranded or adulterated
- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz: Repeal the sugar program [The Senate voted yesterday to defeat this one]
- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky: Authorize the interstate shipment of unpasteurized milk
- Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.: Promote maple syrup research and production
- Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.: Prohibit the Labor secretary from finalizing a proposed rule related to child labor on farms
- Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa: Eliminate the farmers market and local food promotion program
- Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore: Amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana; Establish a federal task force on childhood obesity; Require the Agriculture secretary to carry out pilot projects to improve nutrition under the food stamp program.
Now is the time to let your Senators know where you stand on these issues. The farm bill still has a long way to go--the House hasn't taken it up yet--but what the Senate decides will surely be influential. Get busy!
Update, 4:00 p.m.: Food Chemical News report that 80 is a gross underestimation of the number of amendments; the number since yesterday has neared or exceeded 300.
Update, 4:15 p.m.: Here's a link to the Sunlight Foundation's report on the money behind the farm bill. About sugar, it says:
Sugar. On Wednesday, big sugar beat back an attempt by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to eliminate a decades-old sugar price support program. The Senate voted 50 to 46 to table her amendment.
Sugar interests such as American Crystal Sugar and Flo-Sun Inc. are among the biggest campaign contributors in the agribusiness sector, giving to Democrats and Republicans alike.
The sugar industry gains strength from having two geographic strongholds-the South, where sugar cane is grown, and the mid-west, the source of sugar beets.
However, sugar's opponents, the interests that buy sugar for their products, is also quite formidable. The Coalition for Sugar Reform, which supported the Shaheen amendment, include such heavyweights as the American Beverage Association, the Food Marketing Institute, and the Snack Food Association, which in turn have powerful corporate membership.
This post originally appeared on Food Politics, an Atlantic partner site.