Farm bill, with US fish requirement, passes Senate, now heads to House

Published on
December 12, 2018

American seafood is one step closer to being served exclusively in school lunches across the country.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday, 11 December, passed the Farm Bill, by an 87-13 margin. Now, the five-year agriculture-related appropriations and policy making bill goes to the House, which is expected to vote on this issue today, Wednesday, 12 December.

While the bill is making headlines elsewhere for legalizing hemp and increasing farm subsidies, it will also have an impact on American fishermen. That’s because the bill includes language from the “American Food for American Schools Act,” a proposal offered by U.S. Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington).

The senators’ bill called for school lunch programs, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to buy U.S. commodities for student meals. While most products were already American grown or made, there were a loopholes in it that allows school districts to purchase imported products, such as bananas and fish, because they either could not be produced in sufficient quantities or could be purchased at a lower price.

As a result, about half of the fish served as part of school lunches has been Russian-caught pollock that was processed in China. Sullivan said the lower-quality fish in school lunches has caused a generation of Americans to eat less seafood as a result.

“This, of course, is going to increase demand for Alaskan fish, which is great for our fishermen and our communities,” he said in a video shortly after the Senate’s vote.

The provision was included in the Senate version of the Farm Bill, which passed earlier this summer. However, it was not included in the House version, which meant it was possible for negotiators to remove the language during the reconciliation process.

Both chambers voted in July to move the bill to a conference committee to iron out differences. The committee held a public hearing in early September and then announced it had reached an agreement on 29 November.

If the House approves the committee report, it will then go to President Donald Trump for his consideration. Should he happen to veto the measure, Congress would have the chance to override it with a two-thirds majority in both chambers.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan

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