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By Casey Wooten
July 19 — A Republican-controlled government would work to roll back rules requiring nutrition labels on restaurant menus and other federal mandates in what party officials said would be a “fundamental restructuring of the regulatory process.”
The party released its 66-page policy platform July 18, with the 2016 Republican convention underway. In the platform, the party lays out a broad agriculture policy agenda that members will run on in the November elections.
The plan largely consists of bread-and-butter conservative principles of limited regulation and entitlement reform, the latter coming in a plan to break away administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from the Agriculture Department.
Breaking the SNAP program—commonly known as the food stamp program—from the USDA could rewrite the playbook on how the farm bill is negotiated in Congress. For years, the farm bill has moved through Congress with the help of a fragile understanding that Democrats backing nutrition assistance and Republicans backing funding for farm programs would both get most of the money they sought.
An independent SNAP program could upend that arrangement, leaving the program more open to funding cuts.
Republican officials said that Democrats “play politics with farm security,” and work to expand welfare through the SNAP program, which comprises about 70 percent of farm bill spending. Republican officials say they will work to restore tougher work requirements for able-bodied SNAP recipients suspended to combat the economic recession.
“We will restore those provisions and, to correct a mistake made when the Food Stamp program was first created in 1967, separate the administration of SNAP from the Department of Agriculture,” the platform said.
Republicans paid close attention to rolling back regulations viewed as “intrusive and expensive,” such as federal mandates on menu labeling.
A Food and Drug Administration rule requiring restaurant chains with more than 20 location to post nutrition facts on menus is set to go into effect in May 2017. The rule could affect major restaurant companies such as Landry's Inc. and TGI Fridays Inc. and grocery store chains that serve prepared to-go food.
The FDA had twice postponed the rule's implementation date after food and food-service industries deluged the agency with questions about the regulation (See previous story, 05/02/16).
The platform also highlights Republican Party opposition to mandatory labeling rules for foods made with genetically modified organisms.
“We oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, which has proven to be safe, healthy, and a literal life-saver for millions in the developing world,” the platform said.
The House cleared legislation (S. 764) creating a mandatory labeling system July 13. The Senate passed the measure July 7 (See previous story, 07/14/16).
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) both backed the bill, albeit reluctantly. The lawmakers said they would prefer a voluntary labeling regime, but with a Vermont mandatory labeling law going into effect July 1, time had run out to strike a more agreeable deal with Democrats, who largely backed a mandatory system.
Republican officials also said the party would push for trade deals that “adhere to science-based standards” regarding food and health regulations, a reference to countries that seek to limit or ban the importation of GMO crops.
“We will not tolerate the use of bogus science and scare tactics to bar our products from foreign markets, nor will we allow insufficient health and safety standards for products imported for our consumption,” the platform said.
The Republican platform's breadth of policy positions contrasts with the Democratic Party's draft platform released July 1, which was light on agriculture policy but did pledge to “build a stronger rural and agricultural economy” (See previous story, 07/05/16).
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Text of the Republican platform is available at http://src.bna.com/gT7.
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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