April 15, 2013

Farmer Assurance Provision protects farmers


On March 27, President Obama signed into law a bill funding the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year. This appropriations bill included a provision called the Farmer Assurance Provision. The provision was labeled by many activists and NGO’s as a protection by the biotech companies.

In all realities, it does not protect the biotech companies at all, but assures farmers that the crops they plant could continue to be grown, subject to appropriate interim conditions, while disputes about the sufficiency of federal paperwork are resolved.

The key facts under the law are as follows:

  • Section 735 does not protect USDA or any biotech company from litigation or any court action related to the review of USDA’s approval of a biotech trait. Section 735 explicitly, and only temporarily, protects farmers who plant biotech traits in reliance on USDA review and approval.
  • The Secretary of Agriculture already has emergency authority to remove an approved biotech trait from the market at any time if a risk to human or plant health is discovered. This authority is unaffected by the Farmer Assurance Provision.
  • The provision does not restrict the right to challenge USDA’s determination that a product does not present a plant pest risk, nor does it prevent judicial review of that question or procedural matters related to an agency’s determination.

“The National Corn Growers Association supports this provision because it’s important that farmers who grow previously deregulated crops are not penalized when activists find a sympathetic judge,” said NCGA President Pam Johnson, an Iowa corn farmer. “It’s important we’re allowed to keep our crops in the ground until these attacks are resolved.”

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