One Hand Washing the Other in “Wash”ington, DC

I think it was the day before yesterday that I heard the US Senate had come up with a financial “fix” that would allow the USDA to avoid furloughing up to 8,000 meat inspectors. On it’s face, those furloughs would have been completely unnecessary, as the “sequester” is cutting 2% of budget increase and the meat plants mostly pay for the inspector’s presence at the plant any way. However, the Senate passed a bill to get the USDA to not shut down 6,000 or so meat plants, and, they have included the Monsanto Protection Act in the bill. Food and Water Watch has a press release about it, which I have copied below.

Here’s the mistake, by allowing federal overreach into the very thing that sustains us, we find ourselves asking for their permission to feed ourselves. The USDA, who have repeatedly assisted in the consolidation and destruction of independent agriculture, should not be treated with any respect by any person with a shred of dignity. Acting like Vilsack was a victim of Congress under sequestration is acting like Geithner was a victim of Goldmann-Sachs. Vilsack made certain that the Monsanto protection Act was included in the deal to keep the meat inspectors on duty. They played us like a violin. Get them afraid about the ripple effects and shove a destructive amendment into the bill to “save” the meat industry.

Here is FWW release on the subject….

Senate Passes Stopgap Spending Measure Full of Special Interest Favors

Statement of Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch

Washington, D.C.—“Today, the Senate passed a continuing resolution that was laden with special interest policy riders. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) abdicated their responsibility by offering a stale spending bill from last year that is loaded with special legislative giveaways to big agribusiness companies. The heavy-handed and undemocratic process used to force the Senate to accept a deeply flawed proposal allowed votes on only nine amendments.

“The Senate was not allowed to consider two amendments offered by Senator Tester (D-Montana) that would have removed policy riders that favored the largest seed companies and the largest meatpackers. Senator Tester rightly observed that these policy riders were worth millions of dollars to these companies.

“One of Senator Tester’s amendments would have removed a provision that prevents the U.S. Department of Agriculture from implementing livestock marketing and contract fairness rules that were included in the 2008 Farm Bill. Food & Water Watch and hundreds of farm groups worked to include these vital livestock provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill to protect farmers from unfair and deceptive practices by meatpacking and poultry companies.

“Another of Senator Tester’s amendments would have removed a giveaway to genetically engineered seed companies that would allow the continued planting of GE crops even when a court of law has found they were approved illegally. This provision undermines USDA’s oversight of GE crops and unnecessarily interferes with the judicial review process. This favor to the biotech industry was not included in the House-passed continuing resolution and should never have been included in the Senate version.

“One thing that the Senate got right was finding a solution for funding meat and poultry inspection that would avoid USDA inspector furloughs. The funding cuts triggered by sequestration would have required USDA to furlough its meat and poultry inspectors for up to two weeks this summer, causing the plants they inspect to stop operating. The House should maintain this funding for USDA meat and poultry inspection to ensure that this critical consumer protection program can continue to operate.”