We're nearing the end of our first season and to finish it off we are providing a couple summaries relating to changing the filibuster. Today we look at what is called the "Constitutional Option," which applies only to the first day of a new session of Congress. This is expected to come up at the beginning of the 112th session.
There are several reasons that we decided upon the Tester Amendment to the Food Safety Bill for episode 12 of 90 Second Summaries. First and foremost, the amendment is a significant one that is essential to understanding this piece of legislation (legislation we summarized in episode 7). Not only is it the most substantial difference between the Senate’s version of the bill and the House’s, but without it the future of the legislation itself would be unclear. Therefore, we think it is important that people understand how this amendment changes the bill.
Another significant influence in our decision was you. When we summarized the Food Safety Bill in episode 7 a number of viewers brought up the issue of protections for small farmers. It was clear to us that this amendment was worthy of a summary.
We expected this bill to get a cloture vote today, but they’re taking the week off and coming to it next Monday. Which makes sense, it’s not like they have a lot on their plate this lame duck session (other than this, DADT repeal, tax cut extensions, the DREAM Act and a new START Treaty, you know, minor stuff).
Status: The Tester Amendment has been included in the Manager’s Amendment to S. 510. A cloture vote is scheduled for November 29th. The Senate bill will then need to be merged with the H.R. 2749, the House version which does not include a similar provision to the Tester Amendment.
Purpose: S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, creates new regulations on the food industry intended to prevent food-borne illnesses. However, many believe it places undue burden on small farmers. Numerous national, state, and local organizations – repre
senting consumers, farmers and ranchers, local food producers and co-ops – quickly expressed their concerns regarding the proposed regulations.
In response, Senator Jon Tester proposed an amendment designed to protect those small and local farmers from burdensome safety regulations.
Summary: The Tester Amendment exempts small businesses from the regulations proposed in S. 510 and establishes some new guidelines for those businesses. Specifically, it:
• Exempts businesses that have annual sales of less than $500,000 and sell the majority of their products to consumers, or to restaurants and retailers within the State or within 275 miles. The Food and Drug Admini stration (FDA) will have the power to revoke an exemption if the facility has been associated with a foodborne illness outbreak.
• Exempts all “very small businesses,” to be defined by FDA.
• Defines farmer’s market sales as “direct-to-consumer” for FDA purposes
• Requires exempted businesses to submit to the FDA documentation that demonstrates that the facilities qualify for the exemption and are in compliance with state and local laws.
• Requires exempted businesses to put their business name and address on all product labels.
These businesses would not be exempt from any other existing or future regulations, only those established by this legislation
CBO Score: None provided.
Supporters: Small and local farm organizations,
• Supporters, argue that small farmers provide an important option for consumers and that the regulations proposed in S. 510 could push many of them out of business. The also point out that the recent, well-publicized incidents involving food-borne illnesses resulted from “industrial food supply chains” and not small farms.
Opposition: American Meat Institute, National Chicken Council, etc., and some food safety advocates
• Most opponents argue that federal food safety frameworks should apply to all segments of the food industry regardless of size, location, or type of operation.