Tester submits comments to USDA on agriculture coexistence

Senator calls on department to protect traditional producers, increase food transparency

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to protect traditional producers and increase food transparency as it considers new rules on agriculture coexistence.

Tester, the Senate’s only working farmer, recently submitted comments to USDA as the department gathers feedback on how it oversees traditional, organic and genetically-engineered crops. Tester previously encouraged the department to extend the deadline for the comment period from January 3 to March 4 so more Montanans can weigh in.

Tester told USDA that it should take steps to prevent cross-pollination from genetically-engineered plants to traditional plants and that seed companies must be held accountable for any economic losses caused by contamination of traditional crops.

Tester also said that labels should be required on genetically engineered foods to increase food transparency. Tester’s full comments to USDA can be found online HERE.

“Government works best when folks have the chance to speak up,” Tester said. “As the USDA moves forward, it must listen to the needs of traditional producers so they are not squeezed out by larger agriculture corporations.”

Coexistence is defined as the simultaneous cultivation of crops, including traditionally produced, organic, identity preserved and genetically engineered crops. The USDA is seeking ways to improve communication and collaboration across agricultural sectors.

Tester has a long record of advocating for Montana families and producers in the Senate. He introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, which will establish a consistent and enforceable labeling standard for genetically engineered foods so Montana families know where their food comes from.

To submit comments, visit: www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2013-0047. Comments are due March 4.