During his three decades in Congress, Rep. Richard Neal has compiled a dismal record on food and agriculture issues that are critical to both farmers and consumers in his district.
Rep. Neal has voted against three omnibus Farm Bills in 1990, 2001 and 2014 and numerous times he has failed to support the annual appropriations bill that funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission. During debate on the Fiscal 1998 Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, Rep. Neal did not vote on an amendment to increase funding for the Women, Infant and Children supplemental nutrition program by $23.7 million and reduce funding for federal crop insurance sales commissions by $36 million. All nine of the other House members in the Bay State delegation voted yes. That same year, Rep. Neal voted against the bill to authorize $14.7 billion through fiscal 2002 for USDA’s research, education and extension programs.
Rep. Neal has also cast some bad votes affecting consumers right to know what is in their food and where and how it is produced. In 2001, Rep. Neal opposed an amendment to prohibit the Food and Drug Administration from approving genetically engineered salmon or any other transgenic fish for U.S. consumption. A yes vote was to delay any FDA approval of genetically engineered fish for one year. And in 2003, Rep. Neal voted for a spending bill that funded the Agriculture Department that included a rider that barred USDA from implementing Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations for meat and poultry products.
Reforming federal farm programs has also not been part of Rep. Neal’s agenda in the House. During consideration of the 2007 Farm Bill, Rep. Neal opposed an amendment to bar farmers making more than $250,000 in annual adjusted gross income from receiving federal subsidies. It would have replaced the current price-based countercyclical payment program with revenue-based countercyclical payments for commodities. Commodity payments would only be made to individuals actively engaged in farming, and individuals and entities convicted of fraud for evading payment limits would have payments withheld for six years. Foreign individuals and entities would have also been barred from receiving crop subsidies. It would have reduced the maximum direct payment that qualified individual farmers can collect to $40,000. And during debate on the 2013 Farm Bill, Rep. Neal voted against an amendment that would limit federal crop insurance premium subsidies to producers with adjusted gross income of less than $250,000, limit per-person premium subsidies to $50,000, cap crop insurance providers’ reimbursement of administrative and operating expenses in 2013 at $900 million and reduce their rate of return to 12 percent of the retained premium.