This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) that would have effectively eliminated a requirement that the Agriculture Secretary submit to Congress report on all travel expenses relating to the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, which supports small-scale farms that provide food to their local communities. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Agriculture Department programs.
Specifically, the underlying agriculture bill imposed a new requirement on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. It required the Agriculture Secretary to submit a report to Congress accounting for all trips taken in connection with the program, and the cost of those trips. In addition, a report released by the House Agriculture Committee (such reports are known as “committee reports”) expressed skepticism of the value of Agriculture Department research on local food programs. In response, Rep. Pingree offered this amendment that would have prohibited funding provided by the agriculture bill from being used to enforce new requirements imposed on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative.
Pingree urged support for this amendment: “`Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' is not a standalone program and does not have its own budget. Creating additional burdensome reporting requirements would delay program implementation and distract the USDA from addressing the economic challenges of rural communities. Second, the [committee] report language expresses concern with USDA research, education, and extension activities associated with local and regional food systems…By singling out a small piece of the agricultural research agenda and by substituting the committee's judgment for that of researchers and educators, the Agriculture appropriations bill report sets up a roadblock to innovation and diversity in American agriculture and growth in the rural economy. In response to this misguided report language, this amendment will prohibit the USDA from using funds to fulfill the additional and burdensome reporting requirements proposed for Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food….I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting farmers, in supporting local food production, and consumers who want to know where their food comes from. It's good for our local communities, our local economies, and it's good for our country.”
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) opposed the amendment: “Here's what it does: the report language, which this amendment tries to strike, it simply tells the Secretary of USDA [the Agriculture Department] to notify the committee of any trips related to the Know Your Farmer initiative and include the agenda and the cost to the American taxpayers. It doesn't prevent them from doing this. It simply says let us know. It also says put this information on the Web page. So if Know Your Farmer is that important, why would USDA have any opposition to this at all?”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 170-238. Voting “yea” were 165 Democrats and 5 Republicans. 224 Republicans and 14 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House voted to maintain requirements that the Agriculture Secretary report all travel expenses relating to the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, which supports small-scale farms that provide food to their local communities.