Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Statement by Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding Senate Voluntary GMO Labeling Vote

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 16, 2016 – “It is inexcusable that today’s Senate vote on a voluntary federal GMO labeling bill that preempts a damaging patchwork of state measures fell short. While we appreciate Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduling this floor vote today, we will continue our fight for this vital piece of legislation, along with Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and others, to secure a law that supports consumers, America’s farmers and ranchers and our nation’s system of affordable, productive agriculture.

“To say we are angry with those senators who abandoned farmers and ranchers and turned their backs on rural America on this vote is an understatement. Their votes opposing this measure ignored science, threw our nation’s food system into disarray and undermined the public’s understanding of the many benefits of biotechnology in feeding a growing and hungry population. We remain hopeful they will have a chance at redemption by correcting this situation that will otherwise lead to increased food costs for consumers and stifle agricultural innovation, which remains a strength of our nation. We must not let anyone forget that rural America and our farmers and ranchers do matter.”

Chairman Conaway statement on Senate failure to advance bioengineered food labeling legislation


Today, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) issued the following statement in response to the Senate’s failure to advance critical bioengineered food labeling senators on the proposed bioengineered food labeling bill.

"The House Agriculture Committee has been working for months to promote bipartisan solutions to the problems confronting American agriculture. We have listened to our constituents, engaged in deliberate public debate, and proceeded doing the jobs we were elected to do.

"My good friend Pat Roberts along with many members of his Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry have been true leaders. They have attempted countless times to do the work of the Senate but have been hampered at every step by an uncompromising and inflexible group of minority party Senators.

"Make no mistake, it's not Republicans these Senators have opposed, it's the American farmer and rancher. Enough is enough. Americans are tired of viewing a broken system that refuses compromise at the behest of extreme views be it on the left or the right. These Senators have refused to move from their position calling for a mandatory warning label for products of biotechnology. They have chosen to side with activists who have publicly acknowledged their objective is to stigmatize a safe and valuable tool for America’s farmers and ranchers.

"There are many marketing techniques available to provide consumers with information about the products they choose to purchase. Biotechnology is not an issue of safety. Therefore, government mandated warning labels having nothing to do with product safety and serve no purpose other than to disparage one product over another. These Senators cannot continue to say that they are advocates for America’s farmers and ranchers when they consistently oppose those who provide the food we eat and the clothes on our backs.

"Today, no thanks to this small group, the Senate defeated a motion to conclude debate on legislation to establish a standard for marketing products of agricultural biotechnology. Due to these actions, interstate commerce will be severely threatened; small, family-owned food companies face penalties that include a $1,000 per day, per product fine should their products intentionally or unintentionally cross into Vermont’s borders; America's farmers will lose access to vital technologies; and our ability to continue to provide the world’s safest, most abundant and affordable food supply will be threatened.

"Today does not need to be a bad day for American Agriculture. I call on the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Ranking Member to fulfill her responsibility by standing up for America’s farmers and ranchers. This issue cannot be resolved so long as it is viewed as a zero-sum game.”

CFSAF Statement on Senate Cloture Vote on Roberts Bill

(Washington, D.C.) – The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food issued the following statement today after the Senate failed to pass Chairman Pat Roberts’ uniform, national food labeling standard:
“This is the most pressing issue currently facing the food and agriculture industries, so it is disappointing that despite nearly 800 groups united in support behind this reasonable solution, the Senate could not get it across the finish line today,” said Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.
“Despite today’s vote, there continues to be a strong bipartisan consensus to protect American consumers from the increased food costs and confusion of a 50-state patchwork of labeling laws,” added Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “GMA is committed to rolling up our sleeves to work with Chairman Roberts and Senator Stabenow so that the Senate can enact a bipartisan solution in the near future.”

Bipartisan defeat of Senate GMO “DARK Act” a victory for right to know

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today a bipartisan group of senators voted to block Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R-Kan.) legislation, dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, which would have prevented Vermont and other states from labeling genetically modified foods. The bill would have put in place a discriminatory and voluntary system reliant on QR codes, websites and toll-free numbers to disclose GMO content. A similar bill, which passed last year in the House, took away states’ rights to label and regulate GMO crops.
Friends of the Earth Food and Technology Program Director Lisa Archer offered the following statement in response:
Friends of the Earth strongly supports mandatory GMO labeling and applauds the senators who stood against  the DARK Act, an undemocratic and desperate attempt by junk food and chemical corporations to keep Americans in the dark about what we feed our families. More than 90 percent of Americans want GMO labeling and this bill would have done nothing to satisfy the tidal wave of consumer demand for transparency evident in states across the U.S. The bipartisan defeat of this bill is a testament to the strength of the movement for a truly sustainable, healthy and transparent food system.
We urge the Senate to stand strong against any proposals that fall short of clear, on-package labels that allow Americans to make an informed choice about what they eat. Proposals for GMO disclosure via QR codes, websites or toll-free numbers discriminate against lower-income, rural and elderly Americans who have less technological access. In this election year, voters won’t soon forget which senators choose to stand up for their right to know.

US Labor Department announces $81 million in available funds to support migrant, seasonal farmworkers

Program provides services, training for nation’s agricultural workers

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced $81 million in available funding through the National Farmworker Jobs Program to provide additional employment, training and housing assistance to migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families.

Migrant and seasonal farmworkers often experience chronic unemployment and underemployment due to the nature of the agriculture industry. The National Farmworker Jobs Program is designed to help participants retain and stabilize their current jobs, and acquire new skills and better living arrangements to start careers that provide higher wages and stable, year-round employment.

“America’s farms and the people who work on them are critical to the life we enjoy. Too often, these workers face significant challenges accessing the resources and training needed to plan for a sustainable future,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “These grants will provide additional training and services to help farmworkers create better futures for themselves and their families.”

The NJFP grant competition is part of the administration’s ongoing commitment to raise the standards of living for migrant and seasonal farmers, and adheres to the job-driven training principles presented in 2014 by the Vice President’s Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity report.

Authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and administered by the department's Employment and Training Administration, the funding will provide approximately $75,885,000 for Employment and Training Grants to applicants with defined plans to engage employers and offer participants work-based learning opportunities. It will also provide approximately $5,517,000 for Housing Assistance Grants to applicants who have identified the challenges and can implement solutions for migrant and seasonal farmworkers seeking affordable housing.

For more information on the National Farmworker Jobs Program, including a list of current grantees, visit

Labor Department announces availability of $338 million in grants

Grants seek to provide meaningful employment, economic stability
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the opening of a $338 million grant competition for national organizations to provide critical job training and related services to low-income, older American workers through the Senior Community Service Employment Program.
Approximately $338 million in grants are available for national grantees in Program Year 2016. The total SCSEP appropriation is approximately $434 million; the remaining approximately $96 million will be awarded to state and territorial grantees based on a statutory formula, and will cover program administration.
“The funds announced today will provide important opportunities for low-income seniors across the country to access jobs that benefit themselves and their communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “These grants support our mission to help every American who wants to work find a job that can contribute to economic stability.”
The department anticipates funding between 10-22 grants that will serve more than 53,000 older Americans per year, with award amounts expected to range between $2 million and $50 million.
The SCSEP fosters economic self-sufficiency, provides career skills training, and promotes useful part-time employment through community service assignments for unemployed, low-income individuals aged 55 years or older who have poor employment prospects. The SCSEP provides older workers with access to comprehensive services such as orientations, community service assignments, occupational, work skills and aptitude assessments, skills training, free physical examinations, an assessment of needs based supportive services and job search assistance. Additionally, SCSEP participants can receive employment assistance through the American Job Centers.
SCSEP national, state and territorial grantees spend more than 35 million hours per year working in community service assignments at public agencies and non-profit organizations while simultaneously developing crucial job skills that foster self-sufficiency.
The Funding Opportunity Announcement, which includes information on how to apply, is available at

Statement from Snack Food Association President and CEO Tom Dempsey

(Washington, D.C.) – The Snack Food Association issued the following statement today after the Senate failed to advance Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts' proposal to establish a uniform, national food labeling standard:
"We are extremely disappointed that the Senate could not come together today to support a bipartisan solution that would have called for unprecedented disclosure of ingredient information to consumers and prevented a chaotic patchwork of state laws from taking effect. The Snack Food Association's members are committed to meeting consumer demand for information, but we urgently need Congress to come together to set clear guidelines that don't lead to confusion, increased grocery bills, and crippling costs for food manufacturers. We view today's result as a major failure on behalf of our Congress to stand up and do the right thing for American food and agricultural business, as well as for consumers.  
Small and midsized companies will be hit the hardest by the state-by-state approach to mandatory labeling if the Senate does not quickly reach a compromise.  We must find a solution that establishes federal guidelines for GMO labeling that does not stigmatize a technology that has been proven safe and beneficial. Only Congress has the ability to prevent a costly and confusing patchwork of state labeling laws from beginning to take effect in July 2016. The time to act is now.
We thank Chairman Roberts for his leadership and will continue to work toward a bipartisan agreement."