On November 30, 2010, bill S-510 passed the Senate on a sort-of bipartisan vote, by which I mean "some Republicans voted for it". The bill actually resulted in revenue being raised, and so could not Constitutionally actually originate in the Senate (oops!), so after passage S-510 morphed into the previously-passed H.R. 2751, with the changes to the House bill passing the House on December 21 in a more or less party line vote.
Avert your eyes, sausage being made.
On December 29, it went to Obama's desk, where (I think) it awaits his signature.
What's in the bill? It's a response to the various food quality scares of the last couple of years: the Eggs Of Death, the Spinach Of Death, the Tomatoes Of Death, etc. Very briefly, it expands the power of the FDA to regulate food production, giving authority to initiate recalls and suspend operations of food producers who are found to be responsible for contaminated foods.
The bill was opposed by the usual anti-regulation suspects: John Birch Society, Freedomworks, various food industry organizations. Perhaps surprisingly, it was initially also opposed by organic farmers, very small farmers, whole foods advocates, and folks generally interested in local production and distribution of food.
The latter group was concerned, in particular, that the additional regulatory requirements introduced by S-510 would bury small producers by making it the cost of compliance too high.
Enter: the Tester-Hagan Amendment, which carves out an exemption for folks who (a) gross less than a half-million in sales a year, or (b) sell at least 50% of what they grow directly to local consumers, restaurants, or retailers.
Those folks will not be exempt from all regulation, they will still have to comply with state laws.
So: a new federal bill that addresses demonstrated failures of a critical industry to operate safely, but which limits its scope to large-scale producers and leaves mom-and-pops under the control of state legislatures.
And, consumers need fear their salads any longer. At least, less so.
Do we have a winner?