May 24, 2021

Several Agriculture-Related Bills Introduced

Several Agriculture-Related Bills Introduced

Several bills have been introduced to the U.S. House and Senate that would affect the agricultural community. The DAIRY PRIDE ACT of 2021, the Kids Eat Local Act, and the Agriculture Resilience Act all intend to support farmers and ranchers.

The DAIRY PRIDE Act, Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, Milk, and Cheese To Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act was reintroduced to the Senate by Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), chair of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, and Jim Risch (R-ID) and to the House by Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Mike Simpson (R-ID). The Act would require non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants, and algae to no longer be labeled with dairy terms, like milk, cheese, or yogurt. The DAIRY PRIDE Act was previously introduced but failed.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulations define dairy products as being from dairy animals. Though existing federal regulation is clear on this subject, the FDA has not enforced the regulation to ensure accurate labeling, and the incorrect use of the terms “milk,” “yogurt,” and “cheese” have increased rapidly. The DAIRY PRIDE Act would require the FDA to issue guidance for nationwide enforcement of mislabeled imitation dairy products within 90 days and require the FDA to report to Congress 2 years after enactment to hold the agency accountable for this update in their enforcement obligations.

“If it’s not milk, don’t call it milk. The same goes for yogurt, butter, and cheese. Only real dairy products from actual dairy animals deliver key nutrients and are held to extremely high FDA standards. Idaho’s dairy farmers are rightfully proud of their high-quality dairy products. It’s only fair that dairy terms be reserved for genuine dairy products,” said Risch in a press release. “Dairy farmers, already struggling to survive, are facing a growing threat due to the misleading practice of marketing plant-based products as milk and dairy products,” said Welch. “These products do not meet the FDA’s definition of a dairy product because they do not have the unique attributes and nutritional values provided by dairy. Our bill would require the FDA to enforce its existing definition of milk and dairy products so that consumers can make more informed choices.”

The Kids Eat Local Act supports farm-to-school efforts by making it easier for schools to provide locally grown, raised, and caught foods and farm products to meal programs. The Act was introduced by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Josh Harder (D-CA), and Alma Adams (D-NC). Although the 2002 Farm Bill included a provision, that was later strengthened in the 2008 Farm Bill, to encourage institutions participating in child nutrition programs to purchase “locally-produced foods for school meal programs, to the maximum extent practicable and appropriate,” current law does not allow schools to explicitly require “local” or “regional” as a product specification in a food procurement request.

“Purchasing locally is a natural choice for our public schools, many of which already celebrate local and regional foods through farm to school, school gardens, and other similar programming,” said Wes King, Senior Policy Specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “The Kids Eat Local Act will help to facilitate connections between schools and local producers by clarifying existing procurement rules and adding ‘locale’ as an allowed product specification. This legislation will be welcome news to farmers across the country, as they work to recover from the pandemic and rebuild markets.”

The Agriculture Resilience Act was introduced by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and summaries a farmer-focused, research-driven path to net-zero agriculture by 2040. The Act will increase USDA research and regional climate hubs, improve soil health, protect existing farmland, boost investments in on-farm energy initiatives, and reduce food waste. “The Agriculture Resilience Act focuses on solutions that are farmer-driven in order to reach net-zero emissions in this sector by 2040. Climate change deserves a whole-of-government approach, and I’m looking forward to working with the Biden administration to ensure farmers have a seat at the table as we work to address the climate crisis,” said Pingree.

The Act is supported by various organizations. “Farmers and ranchers are increasingly being recognized as an essential part of the solution to the climate crisis,” said Eric Deeble, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) Policy Director. “As they deal with increasing pressures brought on by a changing climate, they know what’s at stake and are committed to healthy soils and resilient, sustainable ecosystems. This legislation centers agriculture to ensure the inclusion of the sector in meaningful and long-lasting policy action on climate change. NSAC is pleased to support this important bill, and to continue advocating for policies that support sustainable family farming.”

Martin Lemos, Co-Executive Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition stated in a press release, “It is legislation that comprehends the necessity of resourcing our farming communities with specific attention to communities of color. We are grateful to the leadership of Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Martin Heinrich for putting forth legislation that will substantively address climate risk for our farming communities and reinforce our shared resilience.”