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Food Policy Group Rates Legislators On Food, Farm Votes

Food Policy Group Rates Legislators On Food, Farm Votes

Group hopes to improve voter access to information ahead of Nov. 6 election and forthcoming Farm Bill votes

The newly-formed Food Policy Action group on Wednesday released a food policy scorecard rating members of Congress on food and farm votes.

The group selected 18 floor votes in the Senate and 14 in the House, taken over the past two years, to compile the scorecard. The votes touched on food safety, hunger, farm subsidies, food labeling, organic farms and local food systems, according to FPA.

To receive top marks on the scorecard, legislators must vote with the FPA position on each issue.

Chef Tom Colicchio organized the group, along with a selection of other food and animal welfare representatives. Colicchio said the scorecard allows the group to weigh in on political matters.

Lawmakers will once again return to Washington, D.C. after the November elections to resume critical voting on food and farm issues

"Greater transparency is the right recipe for food policies that improve Americans' diets, feed hungry kids and protect family farmers and the nation's food supply," Colicchio said.

Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, was also involved in developing the group. He now serves as board president for FPA.

"In this political season, when food policy has become a political football-from anti-hunger programs like 'food stamps' to fledgling efforts to make school lunches healthier-the National Food Policy Scorecard is a vital tool for voters," Cook said. "Until now, consumers have been voting with their pocketbooks to demand safe and affordable food that is produced without harming the environment or treating animals inhumanely. Now, they can actually vote for lawmakers who have stood with them, not with big food or industrial agriculture."

The average score for Senate members was 58% while the average score for House members was 57%.

Lawmakers receiving 100% scores include Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. Reps. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and James Moran D-Va., also received 100% scores.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., were among the legislators receiving low marks on the FPA scorecard.

See a complete list of Congressmembers' scores here. 

Key votes tabulated for the House scorecard include Rep. Kristi Noem's Farm Dust Bill, Rep. Paul Broun's McGovern-Dole Amendment and the Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act. The Senate scorecard included Sen. Dianne Feinstein's Ethanol Subsidy Amendment, Sen. Jeff Merkley's Organic Amendment, and Sen. Mike Johanns' Farm Surveillance Amendment.

Robin Schepper, former executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative, said pressure from voters will be the only way to change food policies for better lifestyles.

"Everyone has a role to play if we are going to reduce childhood obesity, especially our legislators in Congress," Schepper said.

Other FPA board members include Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Gary Hirshberg, co-founder and chairman of Stonyfield Farm; Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer and president of the Humane Society of the United States; Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest; Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!; Mia Dell, chief lobbyist for United Food and Commercial Workers; Navina Khanna, co-founder of Live Real; and John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association.

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