GOP Wants Fewer Farm Restrictions on Antibiotics for Animals, Pesticides, Water Use


National Farm Bureau

Here’s what the National Farm Bureau, which named 223 Republican (49% of the House of Representatives) and 23 Democratic members (5% of the House of Representatives) of 112th Congress “Friend(s) of Farm Bureau,” has to say on the issues.

The American Farm Bureau Federation identifies eight political issue areas as priority including the 2012 Farm BillImmigration ReformAgricultural Youth Employment Standards, Clean Water Act including NPDES Pesticide PermitsEstate and Capital Gains Taxes, Preserving Antibiotic AccessRegulatory Reform, Rural School Funding and Russia WTO Accession – Permanent Normal Trade Relations for Russia. In terms of the impact of the the health of our food systems and environment, the most relevant seem to be:

The 2012 Farm Bill –  This issue could use its own post, however in short, economic studies show that large agribusinesses, rather than independent farmers, receive a significant share of total subsidy spending. Why is this bad? Large agri-businesses have eroded rural economies and factory farm operations pollute the environment and endanger public health. As mentioned above, President Obama has endorsed the Senate’s version of the farm bill that would eliminate many costly subsidies to farmers and increase spending for healthy food initiatives. Farm Bureau Position: Farm Bureau was “especially pleased” with much of the House Agriculture Committee provisions. Yet, they have vowed to work to implement additional provisions.

Clean Water Act (CWA) “Definition of Waters” – In the CWA, the EPA has proposed effective regulatory control over virtually all US waters, not just navigable waters. Farm Bureau position: Calling the new powers “boundless” and “an “over-reach” the Farm Bureau states that Congress should not permit the agency to adopt such an approach.

Clean Water Act (CWA) on NPDES Pesticide Permits –  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will require permits for certain applications of pesticides. Farm Bureau position: Opposes any regulation that would require a permit prior to application of a chemical for crop; called “unnecessary,” “uncertain” and “unrealistic.”

Preserving Antibiotic Access – Farm Bureau position: Opposes restricting the use of antibiotics. Moreover, they state that antibiotic use in animals has not been scientifically linked to increases in human antibiotic resistance.

Organic Trade Association

Here’s what the Organic Trade Association, with 89% of the contributions from their PAC to federal candidates going to Democratic candidates, has to say:

According to its website, OTA’s U.S. legislative agenda includes the following priorities: AppropriationsFood Safety LegislationChild Nutrition Re-authorization and the 2012 Farm Bill.

The 2012 Farm Bill  – The country is currently operating without a Farm Bill since it expired in September of 2012. “What happens after the election is still unclear, and probably depends in large part on the results of the election – both in terms of who wins the presidency, and what happens in the House and Senate.”  OTA position: “Senators and Representatives need to return after the election and pass a Farm Bill that includes important organic priorities, including those that ended with the expiration of the Farm Bill in September.” They point to six Democratic and three Republican members of the Agricultural Committee who are supportive.

The Child Nutrition Act –  CNA includes programs that are responsible for feeding America’s children through the National School Breakfast program, National School Lunch Program, and After School Program.  More than 30 million low income children are fed through these and other programs every day. The Act also includes the Women, Infants, and Children’s Program (WIC), which provides meals to children and their pregnant or nursing mothers.  WIC has more than 9 million participants.  The Act must be extended or reauthorized every five years, or the programs will expire. OTA position – Lobbying for more organic offerings, including a $10 million competitive grant program for lower income school districts to purchase organic, removing barriers to organic foods in the WIC program and supporting Farm to School Programs.

So, it looks like the leading GOP-supported agricultural organization is in favor of unlimited antibiotics use, and fewer restrictions on the use of pesticides and water sources.

While the democratic party is far from perfect on these issues, it seems clear to me that the GOP is trying to thwart healthy food policies and environmental protections. If you care about these issues, think carefully when you cast your ballot next week.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Will Fuller

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