Bill will protect chicken farmers, keep Chinese poultry out of school lunches and fund key programs to help local and organic farmers
The House Appropriations Committee passed an agriculture spending bill that contained a number of priorities that Congresswoman Chellie Pingree fought for. Among them include protection for chicken farmers, an issue thatgained national attention after TV comedian John Oliver took up the cause. The bill also includes a ban on serving chicken from China in school meals and includes funding for a number of programs that aid local and organic farmers that were championed by Pingree.
"There is certainly plenty in this bill that I'm not happy with," Pingree said. "Like an attack on school lunches or drastic cuts in funding to crucial programs like WIC. But I'm glad we were able to get someimportant policies in the bill and funding for key programs that help local and organic farmers."
Over the last few years, Pingree has joined her colleague to fight for the rights ofcontract chicken farmers who have been punished by big chicken processors like Tyson and Perdue for speaking out. In 2008, Congress passed legislation providing protection from retaliation under USDA's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) but each year language has been inserted into the Agriculture Appropriations bill blocking enforcement of those protections. Pingree and her colleague, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur ofOhio, have fought these provisions. After John Oliver highlighted thefight on his HBO show, public attention led Republicans to not include those provisions in this year's bill.
Other key provisions Pingree supported included:
· Language asking USDA to ensure that the needs of the organic farming sector are met through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, USDA'sflagship competitive grants research program.
· Language to promote classical (non-GMO) seed breeding research.
· $60 million in funding for research on combating antibiotic resistant bacteria.
· Funding at or near Pingree's requested levels for the Food Safety Outreach Program, Commodity Supplemental Food Program, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas, and Rural Housing Programs.
Pingree ultimately opposed passage of the bill because it rolled back progress on nutrition standards in school lunches, dangerously underfunded the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, exempts e-cigarettes and other tobacco products from full FDA review, and contained no funding whatsoever for key programs like the Potato Research Special Grant, Food and Ag Service Learning Program, High Energy Cost Grants, and Healthy Food Financing Initiatives.