William Ratchford (D-Conn.) was incorrectly identified in last Wednesday's food section as the only Republican to win the Community Nutrition Institute's "Shiny Apple Award" for pro-consumer voting in Congress. Rather, he contributed to making the first awards ceremony an entirely Democratic domain.
MARYLAND residents who worry about legislation that affects food availability and prices can now tack a "Don't blame me, I'm from Maryland" sticker to their car bumpers. Along with Massachusetts, Maryland came out tops on the list of pro-consumer voting in the first session of the 97th Congress.
The Community Nutrition Institute compiled the list--complete with the names of all senators and representatives, the issues and the votes--and gave the first of what it hopes to be annual "Shiny Apple Awards" to the 5 percent in each house of Congress who had excellent consumer-oriented records.
Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) received accolades from CNI, which praised him for voting in favor of all 15 of what they define as consumer issues which hit the Senate floor: several food stamp issues; farm bills which, by allowing the government to buy excess farm products (milk, peanuts and sugar), cost Americans once on April 15 and again during supermarket checkout; plus other bills and resolutions on infant formula sales overseas, meals for the elderly and school lunch.
Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) was no slouch, either. Of the 15 food-related issues that went through the Senate, he opposed the consumer view only once. He voted against an amendment that would reduce the federal money paid to maintain milk price supports (the farm bill provides money for the government to buy extra milk products from farmers to prevent a glut of dairy products that would drive prices down).
Maryland representatives who supported consumers also received their share of "shiny apples." Democrats Barbara Mikulski, Steny Hoyer, Parren Mitchell and Michael Barnes voted 100 percent with nine consumer issues that passed through the House (the issues were much the same as those in the Senate, but some bills combined topics discussed separately in the Senate). Republican Sen. Charles Mathias voted pro-consumer 11 of 15 possible times.
Other Maryland representatives ranged from poor pro-consumer showing (Republican Marjorie Holt, who voted pro-consumer only once) to fair (Democrat Clarence Long voted pro-consumer six times). In between fell Roy Dyson (four) and Beverly Byron (three).
Consumer wins totaled about 50 percent both in the Senate (eight out of 15 bills passed) and in the House (five out of nine).
Conspicuous by their absence among "Shiny Apple" award winners were all 12 of the congressmen from Virginia. Republican Sen. John Warner supported the consumer on six of 15 issues--favoring food stamp recipients, expressing congressional concern because the United States alone voted against a United Nations resolution to establish guidelines for marketing infant formula and voting against milk price supports. No other Virginia congressman voted pro-consumer more than 33 percent of his chances.
Maryland's tendency toward consumerism comes from its fairly active, largely urban population, says Lee Richardson, president of the Maryland Citizens Consumer Council. All the pro-consumer congressmen, he points out, come from the D.C. suburbs or from Baltimore, where agriculture issues would not take priority over consumer concerns. Change the bill to fish production, and the vote might turn out a little differently, he says; it might lean more toward producers and less toward consumers.Charlotte Newton, past president of the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, explains tha state's absence of "Shiny Apple" awards by saying, "Virginia is one of the most reactionary state in the country." She continues, "Virginia is living in the 18th century and has never gotten out of it. None of our representative are aware of consumers." She says it comes as "no surprise that [they] would vote against food stamps and against pro-people policies."
However, one Virginia resident and congressional aide believes that a vote for farm price supports is not necessarily anti-consumer. Instead, she says, it "guarantees an adequate and affordable food supply."
"Shiny Apple" winners come from the first session of the 97th Congress, which lasted from January to December 1981. Tom Smith, research director for the Community Nutrition Institute, is fairly satisfied with the 50 percent consumer victory in Congress last year, "considering what we were up against," he said, referring to the Reagan budget proposals and to special-interest groups trying to influence the outcome of the farm bill.
He anticipates more victories in the next session, when Congress deals with food safety, food assistance programs (for the poor, elderly and school children), food prices (price supports for for agriculture products), sodium labeling and continuous inspection of meat and poultry plants. Smith maintains that many of these issues deal ultimately with middle-class America, thus congressmen will be a lot more sensitive to consumer needs.
Other "Shiny Apple" winners from the Senate were Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-Mo.).
All the "Shiny Apple" winners in the House of Representatives voted pro-consumer 100 percent of the time. Other than Maryland, New Jersey had the most consumer-oriented representatives this year. New Jersey had four (of 15) "apple" winners: Democrats James Howard, Peter Rodino, Joseph Minish and Bernard Dwyer.
In Massachusetts, Democratic representatives Edward Markey, Brian Donnelly and Gerry Studds won "apples." New York had three "apple" winners, Democrats Joseph Addabbo, Geraldine Ferraro and Mario Biaggi. Pennsylvania Democrats Thomas Foglietta, William Coyne and Joseph Smith voted pro-consumer, as did Ohio Democrats John Seiberling, Louis Stokes and Dennis Eckart.
Michigan Democrats John Conyers Jr. and William Brodhead were "apple" winners, along with Democrats Don Edwards of California, Patricia Schroeder of Colorado, Cardiss Collins from Illinois, Adam Benjamin of Indiana and Fernand St. Germain of Rhode Island.
Rep. William Ratchford of Connecticut was the only Republican congressman to win a "shiny apple."
Honorable mentions went to Rep. Fred Richmond (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Carl Perkins (D-Ky.) who, says CNI, "for some years have been the strongest advocates in Congress for food assistance programs that help the nation's poor."
Others who did not vote 100 percent pro-consumer still "deserve the gratitude of American consumers for leading the charge to reduce what were originally excessive price support programs for milk, peanuts and sugar," says CNI. They are Reps. Paul Findley (R-Ill.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Margaret Heckler (R-Mass.) and Stanley Lundine (D-N.Y.) and Peter Peyser (D-N.Y.).
Copies of the CNI voting record may be obtained by sending $4 to Community Nutrition Institute, 1146 19th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.