Thursday, May 23, 2013

Farm Bill hemp amendment needs McConnell's push; Reid is for letting states label GMO-containing food

Sens. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell
The Farm Bill keeps getting more interesting.

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky wants an amendment to legalize industrial hemp, but senators in the Democratic majority aren't willing to let him hide behind his libertarian seatmate Rand Paul in order to include it among the amendments that will get a floor vote.

Meanwhile, Majority Leader Harry Reid "would allow states to impose their own food labeling rules requiring the disclosure of genetically-modified ingredients," reports David Rogers of Politico. "Who’d have guessed the Senate farm bill debate would bring out so much of what’s wild and free inside the sober men at the top?"

Rogers reports that McConnell "worked behind the scenes" to get Paul's hemp amendment added in committee, and as leaders on both sides tried to agree on a list of floor amendments, "One big question was whether McConnell would come out in the open and demand consideration of the legalization provision. Thus far the minority leader has been happy to let his younger, more naturally free-wheeling tea party colleague  . . . walk point for him on hemp. But with the Memorial Day recess looming, Democrats wanted McConnell to speak for himself — if the amendment is to be added to the mix."

Reid supports an amendment by independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (who caucuses with Democrats) to allow states to require labeling of food products that include genetically modified organisms. "Opponents argued that the end result would be a checkerboard set of state laws and Congress should trust in the safety reviews conducted now by the Food and Drug Administration." (Read more)

Meanwhile, McConnell got one obstacle out of the way this afternoon when the Senate voted 44-52 against an amendment that would have ended crop insurance for tobacco, which remains a major crop in Kentucky though only about 5,000 farmers grow it.

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