If you’ve been following the latest drama surrounding the food safety bill, you’ll know that last week the previously passed Senate version of S.510 (73 to 25) was attached to a continuing resolution, needed to fund the federal government, and squeaked out of the House of Representatives with a narrow vote of 212 to 206 to go back to the Senate for final approval where it now languishes.

Late last night, celebrated food safety lawyer Bill Marler reported, after spending 2 full days pounding the pavement on the Hill, meeting with Senators, members of Congress and more importantly Hill staffers, that the Food Safety Modernization Act, which has now passed both chambers, is about to “die a painful death”.

Below are the complex, but narrowing options facing S.510 according to Marler’s food safety prognosticator:

As of today, the Food Safety Bill had a chance for signature by the President by the end of the year (I promised to fly back), IF:

1.  The Senate Republicans did not require that the House Ominbus Spending Bill (a.k.a. the 2011 Budget) with the Food Safety Bill attached, to be read in full (about 50 hours); or,

2.  A Continuing Resolution (a.k.a. the CR with the Food Safety Bill attached), an alternative to the Ominibus Spending Bill, is passed between today and Saturday (when the government apparently runs out of cash to continue operating), but this requires getting past Sen. Coburn’s fillibuster threat and a revote in the House; or,

3.  A shorter Continuing Resolution (like for a few months with the Food Safety Bill attached), but again, I assume that this has the same requirement as 2 – possible, but not likely.

Well, now No. 1 is out.  Now it is down to No. 2.  If not 2, than 3.  And if not 3, the Food Safety Bill is toast for a decade.  And, remember, it passed BOTH Houses of Congress already – OVERWHELMINGLY.

This only makes sense in a D.C.’s universe.

Clearly, Marler’s insights are as close as we have on the bill’s fate, which has been mulled, chewed, spewed and nearly composted over in the sutainable ag community for the past two years.

And just as Marler was bemoaning Congressional incompetence, over at Food Safety News, ace reporter Helena Bottemiller Tweeted:

@hbottemiller As the budget goes, so goes the bill – Democrats concede budget fight to GOP

Bottemiller’s timely Tweet led to a Politico article by David Rodgers which boiled down not only the current budget fight in the Senate between Democrats and Republicans, but that of the 2 year battle for food safety legislation into a single sentence:
“With the government lurching toward a funding cutoff Saturday night, Washington faces a genuine fiscal crisis — at once serious and rich in political farce.”
While the current fate of the food safety bill still hangs precariously in the balance, the one thing that is clear is that no matter what happens on Saturday, this bill is one for the history books.
One of the few postive things to come out of the controversial fight over this bill was the fact that sustainable food advocates actually won the battle to include small farm protections in the bill over the intense efforts of agribusiness to kill the Tester-Hagan and Manager’s amendments. And even as the bill languishes on life support, this may be the biggest lessons leading up to the upcoming Farm Bill; when enough people are gathered to fight against agribusiness, Congress may actually listen.
A big shout out to those more than 12,000 Food Democracy Now! members and organizations like NSAC, OFRF and Cornucopia that fought to make that happen.