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Science-based food policies improve the safety, nutritional value, and variety of foods available for consumption. The IFT Congressional Support for Science Award recognizes congressional efforts to promote science-based food policies and increases the Institute of Food Technologists’ visibility among decision makers and Washington, D.C.-based food interests. Publicly recognizing U.S. legislators for their roles in establishing science-based policies and programs allows IFT to foster a safe and abundant food supply by highlighting the role of science in policy development and food, nutrition, and agricultural issues.
This year’s recipients of the Congressional Support for Science Award are Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Sen. Charles Patrick Roberts (R-Kan.).
Commenting on his selection to receive a Congressional Support for Science Award, Sen. Kohl said, “Science and food safety go hand in hand, and that link is more important than ever as our nation’s food supply has become a global enterprise. I’m honored to receive this award, and I will continue to work with my colleagues of both parties to ensure that Americans have access to a safe and abundant food supply.”
Sen. Kohl has been actively involved in food safety issues: He played a key role in adding to the Food Safety Modernization Act a provision that allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reject imported food from foreign facilities that prevent U.S. inspectors from conducting onsite facility inspections within 48 hours of a formal request. After initiating an extensive review of U.S. food safety laws, the senator recommended an increase in the number of food safety inspectors domestically and internationally and worked to establish regional rapid response teams to locate and isolate contaminated produce. And earlier this year, Sen. Kohl introduced a bill (the Food Safety Accountability Act) that would toughen criminal penalties for intentional actions to jeopardize the U.S. food supply.
Before becoming a member of Congress, Sen. Kohl worked with his family-owned grocery and department stores. Undoubtedly, his experience served as the foundation for his advocacy on behalf of consumers and farmers. His robust support of the Wisconsin farming industry is exemplified by his efforts to create and extend the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC). Established as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, the MILC provides subsidies to U.S. dairy farmers whenever the commercial price of milk declines below an established level, preventing market prices from having an adverse effect on the livelihood of farmers.
In recognition of Sen. Kohl’s staunch support of the farming industry, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation bestowed to him its highest honor: the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award. Likewise, the National Farmers Union honored the senator’s efforts on behalf of farms and rural communities with the Golden Triangle Award. He received the Congressional Workhorse Award from the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities for his espousal of programs for agricultural research and education. In addition, the Council on Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching has formally acknowledged Sen. Kohl for his support of U.S. agriculture programs.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wis., Sen. Kohl is in his fourth term in the Senate, having won his first election in 1988. He serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Banking Committee, and the Special Committee on Aging. In addition, he is chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development, which presides over the budgets of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration among other related agencies.
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When asked about winning the IFT award for science, Sen. Roberts responded, “Science has enabled America’s farmers and ranchers to produce safe, affordable food for a troubled and hungry world. As we struggle to meet the demands of a rapidly growing global population, advanced food technologies and research are more critical than ever before. Sound science helps our nation face challenges in food security, food safety, and international trade. As the new ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I am pleased to accept this award and look forward to addressing these challenges in the 112th Congress.”
Sen. Roberts is on the Senate Agriculture & Nutrition Committee; the Finance Committee; and the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee. Also, he is a member of Senate subcommittees on animal and plant health, international trade, and science and technology. These appointments illustrate Sen. Roberts’s solid reputation as a national leader in agriculture, science, and technology.
The senator’s advocacy for agriculture includes his work to reform the federal crop insurance program and to reclaim the market access overseas for U.S. beef exporters. Earlier this year, he co-sponsored a resolution recognizing the importance of biosecurity and agro-defense, advising Congress that fixing significant vulnerabilities in the nation’s agricultural economy and food supply needs to be a top priority. Accordingly, Sen. Roberts has played a key role in the approval and construction of the National Bio and Agro- Defense Facility (NBADF) in Manhattan, Kan.
The National Bio Agro-Defense Facility will be a modern laboratory designed specifically for the study and containment of diseases that threaten public health as well as animal husbandry. The facility will provide research capabilities, vaccine development, veterinarian training, and other critical countermeasures.
Further demonstrating his commitment to science and food safety concerns, Sen. Roberts worked on finalizing provisions for the Food Safety Modernization Act, specifically urging legislators to ensure that new regulations are science-based. He has also worked to advance other food and biosecurity legislation in Congress and helped gain federal grants for the creation of the Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University.
Born and raised in Topeka, Kan., Sen. Roberts has long demonstrated strong dedication to his country and to the state of Kansas. After graduating from Kansas State University, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps, achieving the ranks of lieutenant and captain. Later, he spent 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, and he is now in his third term as a U.S. senator, having been elected to the post in 1996.
IFT is honored to recognize both senators’ endorsement of science-based food policies.
Toni Tarver is Senior Writer/Editor for Food Technology