WASHINGTON — Legislation to revamp the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's
food-safety programs and to improve school lunches are just two issues
Congress will be debating when it returns Nov. 15 after mid-term elections.
But these bills — top-shelf issues for the produce industry — will have to
compete with more than a dozen other legislative priorities for floor time
during what could be a polarized lame-duck session that may follow a
power-shift to a Republican-controlled Congress.
After two failed attempts to consider food-safety legislation on the Senate
floor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a cloture motion for S.
510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, with hopes to move ahead with
the bill during the lame-duck session. Senate Democrats tried to bring S. 510
to the Senate floor under unanimous consent, but both times were shot down
by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who brought up a litany of criticisms about the
bill’s scope and cost.
The story wasn’t much better for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010
(S. 3307). Groups such as the United Fresh Produce Association worked with
child nutrition advocates during last-minute negotiations to convince the
House to pass the Senate version of the child nutrition bill before the Sept. 30
The House of Representatives did not act on the child nutrition
reauthorization bill, although funding for the program was extended until
December in a stop-gap government spending bill.
"We were very disappointed it didn’t go to a vote last week," said Lorelei
DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for United Fresh. “We’re not
giving up. We’re working very hard to get it to the floor.”
The bill would increase the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches by
six cents to provide children with healthier meals consistent with the dietary
guidelines. It would mandate national nutrition standards for all foods sold at
schools that are likely to include larger servings of fruits, vegetables and
“We can no longer afford to voice our concerns about rising rates of childhood
obesity and the need to promote healthier lifestyles at school without
investing in the programs that reach children in their school cafeterias each
day,” School Nutrition Association President Nancy Rice, who is state director
of the Georgia Department of Education, School Nutrition Division, said in a
Sept. 30 statement. “It is imperative that Congress and the administration
work together to pass a strong, improved child nutrition reauthorization bill.”
While the White House pushed for the bill as a staple of first lady Michelle
Obama’s anti-obesity initiative, it hit a last-minute snag.
More than 100 House Democrats sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
protesting the $4.5 billion Senate child nutrition bill because it would pay for
the program by trimming money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Members of the House have to realize that the Senate-passed measure is the
only one ready to go, said Ms. DiSogra, who explained that if the House
passes its own bill, the Senate may not agree to it and the clock would run