President Obama Tuesday signed the House- and Senate-passed Continuing Resolution, solidifying funding to keep the government operating until Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
The bill includes the FY13 Agriculture Appropriations bill, and a final-hour amendment to avoid furloughing USDA meat inspectors.
The amendment, offered in the Senate by Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Chris Coons, D-Del., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., transfers $55 million in existing agriculture funds to the Food Safety and Inspection Service to avoid the meat inspector furloughs.
"Had inspection been halted, this would have resulted in a backlog of animals, shortened supply of beef to market, higher prices and harm to the futures markets," National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Scott George said.
Amendment co-sponsor Coons noted also that communities would have been affected.
"Backlogs in food inspections could result in the shutdown of processing facilities and send devastating ripple effects through rural communities and straight to the shelves of every market and grocery in the country," Coons said in a press statement.
As part of the CR, the Ag Appropriations bill was also approved, providing funding for ag research and the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. But, a controversial section of the appropriations bill was also included, stirring up reaction from activist groups.
Section 735, known to some groups as the "biotech rider" or "Monsanto Protection Act," allows farmers to continue to plant and market USDA-approved GM crops, even if the product or seed is deregulated during a growing season.
More specifically, the bill text says that in the event non-regulated status of a plant pursuant to the Plant Protection Act has been vacated, farmers who are in the process of growing or cultivating the plant can continue to do so temporarily while the Secretary of Agriculture has the plant under review.
Food Democracy Now!, a lead group behind the push to remove Section 735, says the provision is part of a "backroom deal" with corporate lobbyists that essentially allows biotech companies to push products into the market while they are under USDA review. Further, they say, it gives USDA the power to undermine judicial rulings.
The group Wednesday updated an earlier call for the President to veto the CR by organizing a rally and press conference, vowing to push for an executive order to label genetically modified foods. The group says the CR provision creates urgency for food activists as new GM crops await approval, and it could set a precendent for how future GM crops are handled and regulated.
For now, Food Democracy Now! and other bill opponents will have to wait until the CR expires Sept. 30. to renew a push to get the language out of further funding resolutions. The language also appeared in the most recent Farm Bill legislation.
House Passes Continuing Resolution Funding FSIS Inspectors
Senate Continuing Resolution Offers Promise for Meat Inspectors
Senate Passes Funding Bill, But Sequester Burden Still Heavy