Late Tuesday night, congressional leaders filed an omnibus spending bill to fund the government through 2016. Congress attached a repeal of the Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) program to the bill, but other legislative priority issues, including a federal preemption for the labeling of genetically modified (GMO) foods or foods with GMO ingredients, were considered but not included in the final package. The House and Senate are expected to pass the omnibus within the next few days and then recess until January 5.
The proposed omnibus spending bill bundles the fiscal year 2016 appropriations bills that have not been passed by Congress. Passage of the omnibus spending bill would avoid a government shutdown and, in addition to the funding, includes “riders” which are unrelated legislation that congressional leaders agreed to attach to the spending bill.
The bill includes language that would repeal the COOL requirements for muscle cuts of meat. Last week, the World Trade Organization announced that COOL implementation in the U.S. cost Canada and Mexico, two of the U.S. dairy industry’s largest trading partners, more than $1 billion dollars in lost export opportunities. Repealing COOL will prevent Canada and Mexico from imposing retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports, including dairy products.
“IDFA is disappointed that the omnibus bill does not include a federal preemption to prevent states from passing a patchwork of labeling requirements for genetically modified foods or foods containing GMO ingredients.” said Dave Carlin, senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy for IDFA.
The House passed a comprehensive GMO labeling bill earlier in the year, but the Senate was unable to agree on similar language. “Absent a federal preemption, individual states can impose labeling regulations that will needlessly increase costs and confusion for businesses, farmers and consumers,” Carlin added.
Another rider attached to the omnibus bill would delay further reductions in sodium levels in the school lunch program. A complete rewrite of the child nutrition programs was considered but not included in the bill, despite word that bipartisan House and Senate negotiators had recently agreed on a reauthorization package. A provision requiring a review of the planning process for future Dietary Guidelines revisions was also included in the bill.
Leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee have promised that GMO labeling and child nutrition reauthorization bills will be considered in Congress early in the new year.
For further information, Chelsee Woodey, IDFA director of legislative affairs, at email@example.com, or Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.