The Farm Bill
• The Farm Bill is the primary agriculture and food policy tool of the United States federal government. It deals with agricultural policy as well as all other affairs under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
• The Farm Bill is revised and updated by Congress every five years.
• In 2007, Congress passed H.R. 2419, the Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act of 2007 (aka the 2007 Farm Bill) despite: (1) protests from consumer groups and trade unions and alarming information from (2) the United States Court of Appeals and (3) a USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report.
• According to US consumer groups and trade unions, H.R. 2419 weakens food safety programs and increases the risk of foodborne illnesses by:
– Allowing state-inspected (rather than federally inspected) meat to be shipped across state lines
– Granting 80% of all federally inspected plants eligibility to leave federal inspection in favor of state inspection. Although only inspected by the state, these plants will continue to sell their products nationwide
– Preventing states from imposing additional or higher food safety standards
– Ignoring the inability of states to implement recalls of adulterated meat and poultry that have crossed state lines
• According to the United States Court of Appeals decision, Congress is justified in limiting sales of state-inspected meat. However, the revised Farm Bill greatly expands the sale of state-inspected meat.
• According to the OIG Report, the USDA allowed states that did NOT meet federal food safety standards to continue operating their inspection programs.
• Additional food safety concerns around H.R. 2419 include:
– The USDA annually reviews each individual foreign plant that ships food to the US but does NOT review individual state-inspected plants.
– The H.R. 2419 provisions were drafted by states inspection officials and agreed upon by meat trade associations.
– The House Agriculture Committee failed to hold any public hearings on the new provisions.
– Recalls will become nearly impossible—state officials can only make recalls in their state.
• Stop Foodborne Illness strongly opposes the state-inspected meat and poultry provisions in the Farm Bill, H.R. 2419
• The H.R. 2419 provisions may:
– Lower food safety standards
– Increase the risk of food poisoning in the United States
– Encourage the least responsible and least competent federally inspected meat and poultry processors to escape the rigorous safety enforcement of federal inspectors
– Encourage meat and poultry processors to search for more “understanding” and flexible enforcement from state inspectors
• Stop Foodborne Illness strongly opposes the introduction of any other language into the Farm Bill that would further weaken food safety legislation.