Congress returned to Washington earlier this month to face a full plate on their legislative agenda.
Of course, we are exceedingly thrilled that His Holiness Pope Francis will make history as the first Pope to ever address a joint meeting of Congress on Sept. 24, at 10 a.m. (Eastern). Speaker John Boehner’s office will provide behind-the-scenes photos and video, in addition to streaming the address live.
After that excitement, the Congressional docket for the next three months includes a number of partisan items, from a disputations vote on the president’s nuclear deal with Iran to government funding levels for fiscal year 2016.
In the mix with these budget and foreign policy matters, there are a couple of specific legislative issues related to agriculture and food:
- Action on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for livestock and poultry.
- A reauthorization or extension of the Child Nutrition Act.
- And of course an Agriculture Appropriations bill, including full funding for conservation and rural development programs.
I’ll focus on those top two in this post.
Country of Origin Labeling (COOL)
This legislation required that muscle cuts of meat and some vegetables, nuts and fruits sold at retail must contain a label informing consumers about the country where the product was sourced. But this act faces repeal due to retaliation threats through the World Trade Organization by Canada and Mexico.
The National Farmers Union is coordinating a “fly-in” of their members to push for action on COOL, along with other concerns related to agricultural trade. They are calling for a voluntary labeling program among producers and processors as a way to skirt the WTO ruling.
Child Nutrition Act of 2015
Congress revisits the child nutrition program every five years and wraps these into a comprehensive bill titled the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization, or CNR for short. The current CNR expires Sept. 30; the House and Senate have yet to mark-up their respective pieces of legislation.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for action earlier this year, and will continue to do so until this program is reauthorized by Congress for another five years.
Here at Catholic Rural Life, we take particular interest in the Farm to School program of this CNR omnibus bill. We join with those who likewise see Farm to School as a great potential to help kids, farmers and communities nationwide.
Farm to School can spur a range of positive impacts:
— Improving the health and well-being of children;
— Strengthening children’s knowledge of food, agriculture, and nutrition;
— Increasing market opportunities for farmers, fishers, ranchers, and food entrepreneurs; and
— Supporting community and economic development in rural, urban, suburban, and tribal areas.
You can include your voice by taking action.
As the legislative year progresses — or stalls — we’ll continue to provide updates and alerts. Please check back!
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