By The Associated PressA major farm bill approved by the U.S. House on Thursday would give federal regulators broad powers to oversee the sale of agricultural products such as pesticides and fertilizers.
The measure also would give farmers and processors broad powers over their own production, including opening up new areas of land to farmers to plant crops and expand pastures for livestock.
The Farm Bill would also authorize the Environmental Protection Agency to require federal agencies to disclose to Congress their work on pesticides, which the Obama administration has been under pressure to do.
The legislation is being touted as a major boost for farmers in the face of a severe drought and other challenges facing the nation’s food supply.
But critics say it would make it harder for farmers and other food producers to compete with big-scale corporations such as Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta, which are fighting a nationwide class-action lawsuit alleging the pesticides pose a threat to public health and welfare.
The bill is expected to be approved by a Republican-led Senate on Thursday.
In its initial draft, the House bill included a provision that would give states the power to create new classes of pesticide use under state law, such as “chemical tolerant,” which would allow them to set their own regulations on pesticides.
That could lead to state laws restricting the sale and distribution of such products.
Some industry groups are pushing for a different approach: allowing farmers to grow and sell their own crops, while allowing states to regulate the products that come out of farmers’ fields.
But some industry groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, say that approach would also give the federal government greater power to regulate a market that has grown in size and scope since the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The proposal would also require that pesticides be labeled with the chemical, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California said.
It’s also possible the legislation could be used to weaken or weaken the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regulate pesticides, said Andrew Siegel, a senior fellow at the think tank Center for American Progress, a Democratic-leaning think tank.
The Food and Chemical Toxicology Administration has been charged with protecting consumers from pesticide exposure.
Last year, it announced that it would study pesticides linked to autism and other serious health problems.