October 31, 2014

Food safety bill pases with support of both Iowa senators

Legislation described by supporters as a food safety bill passed today in the U.S. Senate. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin a democrat was a lead sponsor of the bill.

Backers say it would bring about the most radical changes in decades to how the federal government mandates the processing and delivery of food. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley said before the vote he would support the bill, even though critics say it would require $1.4 billion in new spending over the next five years.

“The bill itself does not authorize any new expenditures,” Grassley says. “That’s an issue that’ll have to be faced down the road. In the meantime, if the bill is passed and sent to the president, and I think it will be, the law will be enforced by the F.D.A. from existing resources.”

The bill would impose new requirements on producers, food importers and on the Food and Drug Administration for more inspections and oversight. Grassley, a Republican, says he and other supporters of the bill believe the improvements are necessary for public safety and they’ll determine later how to pay for it all.

“Each year, every agency of the government gets reanalyzed, the amount of money it takes to do whatever Congress decides it ought to be doing, and that decision will be made in the appropriate time through the appropriation process,” Grassley says. “Just like everything else, priorities will have to be set and money will have to be stretched as thin as you can.”

Grassley is joining other senators in sending a letter to the leaders of the chamber, demanding action on a bill that would reinstate tax incentives on biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel. “To us, it defies common sense to neglect the only alternative we have to foreign oil,” Grassley says. “The last thing we should be doing in regard to energy is reducing the supply of our domestic fuel and putting at risk more than 100,000 good-paying jobs connected with the ethanol industry.”

He says the U.S. is spending $730-million a day on imported petroleum.