The Week in Review

— by Sen. Bernie Sanders

The Senate voted Wednesday to back a new Environmental Protection Agency rule to cut the sickening levels of mercury pollution now spewed from coal-fired power plants. On Thursday, senators passed a sweeping new farm bill, but said no to an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders to let states require labels on genetically modified food.  Community health centers were in the news.  A new round of grants was announced on Wednesday to operate 219 new centers, part of a dramatic expansion of affordable primary health care authorized by a Sanders provision in the Affordable Care Act.  On Friday, Sen. Sanders talked with the audience of the Thom Hartmann about the farm bill which passed this week in the senate.

Listen to Sen. Sanders on the Thom Hartmann show here.

Power Plant Pollution The EPA rule on power plant pollution survived a resolution to roll it back. The resolution was offered by Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe. “To Senator Inhofe and others, I say, respectfully, stop poisoning our children,” Sanders said. A member of the Senate environment and energy committees, Sanders also said retrofitting power plants will create thousands of good-paying jobs. Watch

Health Centers There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday to mark the opening of a new $11 million home for the Community Health Center of Burlington. Then on Wednesday more than $128 million was awarded in a new round of grants under the Affordable Care Act to operate 219 community health centers around the country – including $160,417 for the first facility in Addison County. A Sanders provision in the 2010 health care reform law authorized $11 billion to double the number of health centers that provide affordable primary care, dental care, low-cost prescription drugs and nationwide. Read more

Farm Bill The bill that the Senate passed and sent to the House would authorize $1 trillion over the next 10 years for price support and crop insurance programs. About $80 billion a year would go to the food stamp program, about $4.5 billion cut from current spending at a time,  as Sanders noted, “when poverty is increasing in America and when half of the people on Food Stamps are either children or the elderly.” The House plans even deeper cuts, he warned. House Republicans “are planning on cutting not $4 billion over a 10-year period, but over $130 billion over a 10-year period. They are really going to war against the very poorest children and senior citizens in this country. And that`s something we cannot allow to happen,” Sanders said. Watch

Food Labels The Senate rejected an amendment by Sanders to let states require clear labels on any food or beverage containing genetically engineered ingredients. The vote on the amendment to the farm bill was 26 to 73.  “This is the very first time a bill on labeling genetically engineered food has been brought before the Senate. It was opposed by virtually every major food corporation in the country. While we wish we could have gotten more votes, this is a good step forward and something we are going to continue to work on. The people of Vermont and the people of America have a right to know what’s in the food that they eat,” he said. Read more

Dairy Farms Vermont’s congressional delegation hailed Senate passage of provisions in the five-year farm bill that would help dairy farmers. One provision would let farmers purchase insurance for times when milk prices decline. Another builds on legislation introduced two years ago when Sanders proposed a ‘supply management’ system for dairy farms.  The law is designed to break a cycle in which milk prices drop so farmers produce more but the flooded market then causes prices to fall even more.