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By Sarah Foster
November 18, 2010

On Wednesday, Nov. 17, the Senate voted 74-25 to invoke cloture on the S. 510: the "FDA Food Safety Modernization Act,” bypassing Sen. Tom Coburn’s threatened filibuster to bring the bill to the floor for limited debate and bringing it a step closer to passage.

This is one of the worst bills of the session. If you haven’t checked it out, here’s a piece about it I wrote for NewsWithViews. S. 510 is designed to expand the regulatory and law enforcement powers of the Food and Drug Administration, basically putting the agency in charge of the production and distribution of America’s food supply.

Its passage will spell the eventual phasing out of family farms, and the intervention of the federal government in all aspects of food production.

A companion bill, to H.R. 2749: the "Food Safety Enhancement Act,” was passed by the House in July 2009.

But where are the tea partiers that proclaimed loudly to the world last summer and the summer before that they’re going to “take our country back”?

Are they pounding the corridors of the Capital, buttonholing the senators and demanding that they protect family farms? Are they “melting those phone lines,” as Rep. Michele Bachmann would put it? Sending faxes and e-mails?

I hope so and perhaps they are. Perhaps their actions are not being reported. Or perhaps they’re looking ahead to January when the new Congress is sworn in for the chance to put many things right.

If they’re waiting for January, it’ll be too late to save American farming. The fight is going on right now on Capital Hill during the final – and potentially dangerous -- days of the session, and the tea partiers seem to be missing in action. Please, tell me I’m wrong.

Two more votes are needed for passage by the Senate: the next will be on the motion to proceed to consider the “manager’s package” that was released in August; and the final one will be on the bill itself. No one knows when those next votes will take place. Some observers are predicting more debate and votes this week, others say nothing will happen until after the Thanksgiving recess.

A staff member in Sen. Coburn’s office told me he expects the bill to pass not only the two remaining votes in the Senate but the House as well, due to the high level of Republican support. It gets worse.

In my article that was posted Tuesday I explained: If the revised S. 510 makes it through the Senate, it will be merged with H.R 2479 in a conference committee, and the final version must be voted up or down by both houses.

That may not happen with S. 510. Normally, when there are two versions of a bill they go to a conference committee where there’re merged into one piece of legislation. There’s a chance a really awful measure can be killed during the process – or at least made less egregious.

That’s the usual procedure, but it may not happen with S. 510. The House could decide to drop its already-passed bill – H.R. 2749 – and adopt the Senate version “as is,” voting it up or down, probably up. What a nice present that will be for Obama – and you can credit it to Republicans as much as to the Democrats.

Can it be stopped? Maybe. But it will take a lot more pressure on the senators and the representatives than generated so far. The tea party could prove to be the deciders, but where are they?

Now it may be that tea partiers are involved in other battles, not directly connected to Congress – like the one raging over the intrusive pat-down procedures the Transportation Security Administration is carrying out in the nation’s airports.


Call me suspicious, but have you wondered about the sudden explosion of stories by both the mainstream and alternative media on the porno-scanning and groping of airline passengers by TSA officials.

Ask yourself: why the spotlight at this time?

In its nine year-history, the TSA has earned the reputation of being one of the most hated of federal agencies. We’ve all read and heard stories about the missed flights, of people being forced to stand in line for metal-detection scanning, of grandmas having their knitting needles confiscated.

But it’s only in the last three weeks that the issue has gained traction with widely publicized reports of passengers protesting abuses to their privacy and videos posted online. Have you seen the one of the three-year-old girl screaming “don’t touch me” as she tries to seek shelter in her mother’s arms, while a TSA agent runs her hands over the toddler’s body. It’s horrendous.

And of course there’s last week’s case of John Tyner of Oceanside, Calif., whose protest “Touch my junk and I’m going to have you arrested,” went viral as soon as the story – with audio -- hit the web. It’s got to be the quote of the year, maybe the decade.

One reason for the sudden focused attention by the media is that on Nov. 1, the TSA instituted a new set of screening guidelines at the nation’s largest airports that gave airline passengers the choice of moving through a full-body scanner or through an open-hand pat-down process that involves the handling of breasts and genitals of men, women and even children.

The TSA admits that the reason it’s making pat-downs so humiliating is in the hope that people will choose the backscatter scanners -- where agents can see you buck naked on a screen, but you’ll be spared the indignity of someone handling your privates.

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” an agent told writer Jonah Goldberg, “We’re trying to get everyone into the machine.”

It’s understandable why the media would focus on the new procedures, but it doesn’t explain the timing -- why did the TSA decide to begin these procedures Nov. 1? Why not earlier in the year, the day before Labor Day perhaps? Or during the summer when folks were traveling? Or some time early in 2011, like the day after New Year’s?

Timing is everything, and for the administration and certain congressional leaders, the release of the guidelines and the media storm that followed couldn’t have come at a better time, which is why I suspect it did. It’s intended to direct public attention away from what congress might be up to in the weeks following the election.

Maybe it’s all coincidental – but the whole brouhaha over TSA grope sessions has diverted citizen anger away from Capital Hill and the Lame Duck session thereby assuring further advancement of the administration’s agenda post-election.

Is that why we’re not hearing much about the tea party since the election – except for their actions during the campaigns? But the pending legislation is something that the media should be paying attention to.

Meanwhile – don’t let the media storm over the TSA grope-fest distract from S 510.

If you’re concerned about bill, now’s the time to do something. Not next week. Here’s a link to the Internet activist site Downsize DC that you sign up with (it’s easy) and you’ll be able to send an email to your senators – in your own words. And there’s a petition from the Food-To-Consumer
Legal Defense Fund that I included in my earlier piece.

From Downsize DC: PRESERVE THE FREEDOM TO FARM: Please send a letter right now telling your Senators to oppose S. 510.

From FTCLDF: Sign the petition to Reject S.510

To phone your senators, go to for their contact information or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Earlier Stories

1- Sarah Foster: FDA Food Safety Bill Poised for Passage: Nov. 16, 2010
2- Sarah Foster: House Set to Vote on Fast-Tracked "Food Safety" Bill: July 30, 2009
3- Sarah Foster: Will Congress Wipe Out Home Gardens, Growers Markets? Mar. 23, 2009
4- Doreen Hannes: Cheese Factory, FDA and Corruption: Nov. 13, 2010

� 2010 Sarah Foster - All Rights Reserved

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Sarah Foster is a political researcher and freelance writer in Sacramento, Calif. She holds a B.A. in anthropology from U.C., Berkeley and a M. A in folklore-mythology from U.C.L.A. A regular contributor to, her writings have also appeared in WorldNetDaily, Reason Magazine, Orange County Register, and other libertarian/conservative publications.

Sarah can be reached at:









Its passage will spell the eventual phasing out of family farms, and the intervention of the federal government in all aspects of food production.