Daines Stands Up for Montana Farmers and Ranchers

U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senator Steve Daines today stood up for Montana farmers and ranchers and the number one industry in Montana: Agriculture.                     

“There is no reason that Vermont and Bernie Sanders should dictate our way of life in Montana,” Daines stated. “This compromise will protect Montanan jobs, prevent baseless discrimination against Montana agricultural goods and avoid higher prices in the grocery line.”

Key provisions of the bipartisan bill include:

  • Pre-emption: immediately prohibits states or other entities from mandating labels of food or seed that is genetically engineered and interfering with interstate commerce.
  • National Uniform Standard: the U.S. Department of Agriculture establishes through rulemaking a uniform national disclosure standard for human food that is or may be bioengineered.
  • Disclosure: requires mandatory disclosure with several options, including text on package, a symbol, or a link to a website (QR code or similar technology); small food manufacturers will be allowed to use websites or telephone numbers to satisfy disclosure requirements; very small manufacturers and restaurants are exempted.
  • Meat: foods where meat, poultry, and egg products are the main ingredients are exempted. The legislation prohibits the Secretary of Agriculture from considering any food product derived from an animal to be bioengineered solely because the animal may have eaten bioengineered feed.  

Daines’ vote was supported by farmers, ranchers and stakeholders across Montana:

Shane Strecker, Southern Montana Sugar Beet Growers: “Every sugarbeet produced in Montana utilizes biotechnology. To put it another way, without biotechnology, the hundreds of jobs Montana’s sugar beet industry supports wouldn’t exist. The Southern Montana Beet Growers Association is thankful for Senator Daines’ support of the Roberts-Stabenow compromise, which is essential for the sugar beet industry in Montana, and for bringing attention to the importance of biotechnology for Montana’s agriculture.”

Rob Davis, President, Montana Grain Growers Association: “Agriculture biotechnology has enormous potential to ensure that Montana continues providing a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply for our nation and the world. The Montana Grain Growers Association is strongly supportive of the Roberts-Stabenow agreement that helps prevent unwarranted and arbitrary regulations or mandates from being placed on our farmers. The MGGA thanks Senator Daines for his support of this legislation and for his work on behalf of Montana grain growers.”

Brad Griffin, President, Montana Retail Association: “We thank Sen. Daines for his support of this legislation and thank him for protecting Montana’s grocers and consumers.” 

Dr. Hikmet Budak, Plant Sciences Endowed Chair, Montana State University: “We cannot afford to ignore technologies such as GMOs to help meet food supply demands on the planet. It is important to continue to conduct research into GM technology and other means to improve food production, but I have no doubt that GM technology will increase yields which are stable year-to year and resistance to abiotic and biotic stress in crop plants. By increasing yield and reducing the impact of agriculture production on the environment, GMOs will play an essential role in ensuring we have the capacity to feed the world’s growing population.” 

Bob Hanson, President, Montana Farm Bureau: “The Montana Farm Bureau Federation thanks Senator Daines for his support of the Roberts-Stabenow agreement and his support of ag biotechnology. Ongoing efforts to mandate on-pack labeling with worthless information that isn’t even pertinent to certain crops helps no one. MFBF appreciates Sen. Daines’ recognition of the benefits that biotechnology can provide to Montana agriculture and its farmers and ranchers, both now and in the future.”

Elaine Taylor, Executive Director, Montana Beverage Association: “GMO technology has time and again been proven safe, and is a vital part of feeding America. What is needed is a national, uniform approach to labeling bio-engineered foods so that we avoid an unnecessary state-by-state patchwork approach to labeling which will inject chaos into the marketplace. That is why the Montana Beverage Association applauds Senator Daines for his “yes” vote and for his efforts to raise awareness on this important subject.” 

During a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 funding request for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Daines specifically pressed USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on if there are any safety concerns or sound, scientific research that would warrant the mandatory labeling of biotech. In response to Daines’ question, Vilsack responded, “No.” 

Daines also pressed FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf on the safety of biotechnology. During that hearing, Califf stated that biotech food should not be regulated differently than its non-biotech counterparts and noted that the FDA has not found any differences between GMO and non-GMO foods.