Support The Tester Amendment!

June 8th, 2012 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Support The Tester Amendment!

In the United States the biggest and most influential farm policy tool is written by Congress every five years – it’s called The Farm Bill. On April 26, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed the “Agricultural Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012,” which is now being debated on the Senate floor. The Farm Bill is a massive, far-reaching bill that touches almost every aspect of our food, from research funding to agricultural policy to farm subsidies. It is only renewed about once every 5 years.

While there is often much to dislike in the Farm Bill – mostly huge giveaways to agribusiness – there is a key amendment this time that is worth paying attention to, particularly for us in the organic and natural foods industry. It’s informally called the Tester Amendment after Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) who has introduced a Farm Bill amendment that aims to improve seed and breed choices for American farmers.

The amendment designates that a small percentage of the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative budget goes toward classical plant and animal breeding. This amendment seeks to reinvigorate classical plant breeding in the public sector to better ensure farmers have the seeds and breeds they need to be successful. Classical breeding is cost-effective, proven, and the best source of the diverse, complex traits that allow farmers and researchers to respond to changing conditions, new challenges, and new market opportunities. This could be our best chance to protect research funding for public, classical breeding. It’s not controversial, it has obvious benefits for researchers and consumers, and it’s good for every American farmer, no matter what kind of crop they choose to grow.

Agriculture research is controlled by corporations who are focused on expanding their genetically engineered crops. Every year farmers are left with fewer choices of seeds that are not genetically engineered. This amendment would guarantee that non-GE crops get a fair share of the research funds. At least 5% of research funding would have to go toward something other than genetically engineered crops.

This is important! Make sure your Senators know that you support the Tester Amendment. It’s up to us to urge our Legislators to protect small farmers and consumers and stop with the industrialization of our food system.