Washington, D.C. (June 18, 2015)—At a congressional hearing today, John Reifsteck, a grain farmer from Champaign County, Ill., discussed the key role biotechnology plays on farms today and the need for a uniform, process-based national standard for labeling food products made with biotech ingredients.
Reifsteck, the board chairman and president of GROWMARK, an Illinois-based farmer co-op, shared how biotech crops have helped him continue to farm in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner.
“I know firsthand the value biotech crops provide to my operation. My farming experiences illustrate this,” testified Reifsteck. “In the past, I have abandoned parts of fields riddled with insect damage or overcome by weeds. Harvesting these fields would not just have been an economic loss, but would have presented a real risk of physical harm to me and my employees. These are memories I won’t forget. But they represent past challenges that biotechnology has helped me overcome.”
Reifsteck’s remarks came at a hearing of House Energy & Environment Health Subcommittee focused on biotechnology’s impact on agriculture, the food supply and the economy. Reifsteck testified on behalf of GROWMARK, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) and the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food.
“Biotechnology provides substantial benefits to producers, the environment and consumers. To reverse course now would wreak havoc among America’s agriculture industry,” he continued. “Make no mistake, that is what a patchwork of biotech labeling laws would be—an unworkable step backwards.”
To prevent such a situation, Reifsteck urged subcommittee members to support H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, introduced earlier this year by Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.).
After the hearing, Reifsteck commented on a letter endorsing the new discussion draft of the bill sent to Energy & Commerce Committee members yesterday by Representative Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and 29 of his colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee.
“Congressman Davis has long been a true leader in ensuring that farmers have the new products and technologies they need to run successful farming operations,” said Reifsteck. “As the chairman of the House agriculture subcommittee dealing with biotechnology, his letter yesterday signals growing support for H.R. 1599 and a level of cooperation between the Agriculture Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee that will be essential to producers as the bill moves forward.”
In comments made after the hearing, NCFC President and CEO Chuck Conner echoed Reifsteck’s support for the Pompeo-Butterfield bill. “There is tremendous momentum building behind H.R. 1599, as the hearing today in the Health Subcommittee attests,” said Conner. “I think that John laid out a great case, not only for the benefits that biotech brings but also why a uniform, federal labeling standard is needed. NCFC looks forward to working with members of the committee as the process moves forward.”
NCFC is a national association representing America’s farmer cooperatives. There are nearly 3,000 farmer cooperatives across the U.S. whose members include a majority of our nation’s more than 2 million farmers, ranchers and growers. These farmer cooperative businesses handle, process, and market agricultural commodities and related products; furnish farm supplies; and provide credit and associated financial services. Earnings from these activities are returned to their members on a patronage basis. Farmer cooperatives also provide jobs for nearly 250,000 Americans, many in rural areas, with a combined payroll of over $8 billion.
Additional information about NCFC can be found at http://www.ncfc.org.
GROWMARK is a regional cooperative with annual sales of $10.4 billion (FY2014 data) providing agronomy, energy, facility planning, and logistics products and services, as well as grain marketing and risk management services in more than 40 states and Ontario, Canada. GROWMARK owns the FS trademark, which is used by affiliated member cooperatives. More information is available at www.growmark.com