Jillian Bandes

It’s worse than your kids at the dinner table: the battle over food safety has gotten worse after the Senate voted to move forward on the bill Wednesday.

With a 74-25 vote on the motion to begin debate, passage has all but cleared for the bill, which would impose significant regulations on big and small businesses in the food production industry. A complicated reconciliation process would have to take place in order for the bill to be sent to the President’s desk, but those will be addressed by the end of the week.

One of the major hurdles – even if the bill is passed – includes the Tester Amendment, which would exempt small farms from some of the regulations. This amendment has been touted as a way to save small, local producers from going out of business as soon as the bill is passed.

Townhall.com spoke to several players in the debate over this Amendment and the bill at large, which is numbered S. 510. Answers are from Patty Lovera, the assistant director for Food & Water Watch, Mark Dopp, senior vice president at the American Meat Institute, and Ferd Hoefner, the policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Their answers provide a general picture of the debate going on in the Senate right now.

Q: There are clearly safety issues with food products that need to be addressed. However, if certain regulation adversely affects a large segment of an industry – especially a segment with an excellent track record of food safety, as with small / organic farms – how is that regulation defensible?

Lovera, Food & Water Watch: The process for developing this legislation has taken a long time and has included a lot of discussion about how to address the real problems we have in food safety and in how FDA does its job, without wiping out small farms and small businesses. We don't want to make life harder for small operations, but we've been trying for a long time to get FDA's food safety program to be directed towards preventing problems, rather than just responding to them. So we think the Tester amendment (and several other provisions of the bill that establish some flexibility and training assistance for small operations) is an appropriate way to handle this tension.

Jillian Bandes

Jillian Bandes is the National Political Reporter for Townhall.com