Ag Week Ahead: Crunch Time for GMO Labeling Talks

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By Casey Wooten

June 17 — Congress is down to the wire to pass a nationwide labeling standard for food made with genetically modified organisms, and though lawmakers are reporting progress in negotiations, there is still no bill.

Congress is pressed to move this week on a GMO labeling bill, as the House will only be in town until June 24, a week before a Vermont mandatory GMO labeling law is set to take effect July 1.

As of now, the key player is Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who is working on an alternative to committee Chairman Pat Roberts's (R-Kan.) GMO labeling bill, which failed in March. Stabenow told reporters June 16 that she was making progress crafting legislation that could get both Republicans and Democrats on board, but there were still a few sticking points, such as how GMO information would be presented on food packaging (See previous story, 06/17/16).

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, stakeholders are still waiting to hear whether the House will take up a Senate-passed resolution that would roll back Department of Agriculture oversight of catfish import inspections (See previous story, 06/16/16).

The House and Senate versions of the fiscal year 2017 agriculture appropriations bills are still waiting for floor votes in their respective chambers as well.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had discussed adding the agriculture appropriations bill to the chamber's Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill in an effort to advance as many funding measures as possible before Congress leaves for summer recess July 15. But that effort has stalled as lawmakers fight over including gun control legislation in the C-J-S bill (See previous story, 06/17/16).

SNAP, Big Data

Lawmakers may become consumed with GMO negotiations throughout the week, but committee work continues.

The House Agriculture Committee will meet June 22 to discuss the “past, present and future” of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The next day, the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management is scheduled to meet for a June 23 public hearing on Big Data and agriculture, which is likely to focus in part on using drone technology in farming.

Last year, researchers at Informa Economics, Inc. found that farmers could increase productivity by as much as $12 per acre if they used aerial drones to spot crops diseases and pests (See previous story, 07/21/15).

To contact the reporter on this story: Casey Wooten in Washington at cwooten@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com