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FDA Releases Sixth Chapter of Draft Guidance for the PC-Human Food Rule

FDA | Posted on August 31, 2017

Today, the FDA announced the availability of guidance for food facilities that explains how to establish and implement a heat treatment, such as baking or cooking, to prevent contamination by disease-causing bacteria. This is the sixth chapter of the draft guidance, entitled “Draft Guidance for Industry: Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food,” designed to help food facilities comply with the preventive controls for human food rule, mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.The final rule, entitled “Current Good Manufacturing Practices, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food,” published on September 17, 2015, builds on previous food safety requirements and introduces others that together establish a more modern, preventive, and risk-based approach to food safety.This draft guidance is intended to help food facilities comply with specific requirements of the rule, such as developing a written food safety plan, establishing preventive controls, and taking corrective actions. The FDA intends to publish at least 14 chapters of the guidance and will continue to announce the availability of each chapter as it becomes available.   A compliance date is approaching on September 18, 2017 for small businesses (those with fewer than 500 full-time employees) that are required to comply with the preventive controls for human food rule.

Texas hurricane exposes flaws in flood protections

High Country News | Posted on August 31, 2017

“Today, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America estimates that homeowners covered by federal flood insurance pay just half of the “true-risk cost” to insure their properties. In the highest-risk areas, they pay just a third.” A series of disasters has left the NFIP struggling financially. Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy devastated the flood insurance program’s budget and today, the program is about $24 billion in debt. As climate change fuels an increase in disasters, storms of the same caliber may become the norm.“There is actually a 50 percent chance within a 10-year period the NFIP will once again experience Hurricane Sandy-size losses,” Roy Wright, the director of the NFIP, wrote.Financial concerns aside, there are other problems as well. The program encourages people to build and stay in areas that flood constantly. There’s no incentive to leave because taxpayer subsidies rebuild homes and buildings, even if those structures have repeatedly flooded.Attempts to overhaul the NFIP have not been successful and repeatedly have been met with backlash. In 2012, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) introduced the Biggert-Waters Act, a law that would increase the rates for business properties in special flood zones and properties that experience repeated flooding. These proposed increases would have led to an enormous spike in premiums. According to a 2013 RAND Corporation study, premiums in flood prone areas in New York City would have increased by $5,000 to $10,000 a year. Even Rep. Waters was outraged once the numbers came in and was part of a bipartisan effort to draft a bill to make sure premiums wouldn’t suddenly spike. In 2014, Congress passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which delayed the Biggert-Waters reforms for two years. Today, premiums now have slowly begun to increase. The current White House proposal for the program would certainly lead to more financial headaches. As part of deciding which areas are riskier, FEMA creates flood maps—but many of them are out-of-date. Funds had been previously allocated to update them, but Trump’s proposed 2018 budget included cutting $190 million from this effort. Without that money, FEMA would be forced to find money from somewhere else to fund mapping.Financial solvability aside, the NFIP is must be reauthorized by September 30. 

Advocacy group sues USDA over poultry operation loan guarante

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on August 31, 2017

Food & Water Watch has filed a federal lawsuit accusing USDA’s Farm Service Agency of failing to adequately consider environmental impacts before supporting a loan guarantee for a poultry operation on Maryland’s Eastern Shore two years ago. The nonprofit group said the loan guarantee for nearly $1.1 million in 2015 opened the door for construction of a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in an area already besieged by pollution from existing poultry companies. The lawsuit claims that FSA’s review of the environmental impacts of a new chicken plant proposed by One More Haul Farm “fell far short” of what is required under the federal National Environmental Policy Act.

India, China jointly propose removal of US, EU farm subsidies

Live Mint | Posted on August 31, 2017

China and India have jointly proposed the elimination of $160 billion of trade-distorting farm subsidies in the US, European Union and other wealthy nations, a move that has come as a game changer in global farm trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization, say trade envoys familiar with the development. As the WTO’s 164 members prepare for the crucial eleventh ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires starting on 10 December, China and India have turned the tables by calling for the elimination of what is called the Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) or “the most trade distorting element in the global trade in agriculture.”

Local farmers say immigration reform should not hurt their operations

Tribune Democrat | Posted on August 30, 2017

With a presidential administration that continues to call for immigration reform and secured borders, local farmers say any solution should consider the potential effects on the agriculture industry’s workforce.  “Americans don’t want to do a lot of the things farmers need done,” said Marty Yahner, of Patton, who owns a sixth-generation farm with his brother, Rick, that produces corn, oats, wheat, hay and soybeans. “You can’t pay them to do it,” added Jim Benshoff, another sixth-generation vegetable farmer, calling much of the work on his farm “stoop labor,” which requires stooping down to hand-pick peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbage. “We have to have this labor.” Not every migrant worker “is a violent criminal or a drug mule,” Benshoff added, saying they are often reliable and experienced. 

More vets, medical groups join fight to keep dog testing at VA | Posted on August 30, 2017

More veterans, military and medical organizations have come out against legislation limiting medical experiments on dogs at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Advocates and lawmakers attempting to shut down dog testing in the VA gained a new adversary earlier this month, when Paralyzed Veterans of America argued that stopping the research would limit future medical advancements. More than 80 organizations joined the opposition.Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research, or FOVA, represents more than 83 groups. It lobbies for increased research at the VA and makes recommendations each year on funding levels for VA research and research facilities.

Why States Don’t Want Trump to Make ‘Very Big Changes’ to NAFTA

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on August 30, 2017

But as the Trump administration sits down to renegotiate the 23-year-old free trade deal with Canada and Mexico, governors will be hoping for minor adjustments rather than the “very big changes” Trump has promised.Trump’s tough talk wins him applause from voters who blame trade deals for shutting down factories and reducing blue-collar jobs in their neighborhoods. But most economists say that NAFTA had a small part to play in the long-term trends of globalization and automation that changed the kinds of jobs available in the U.S.And today, trade with Canada and Mexico is important to every state’s economy. It’s boosted business for farmers in the Great Plains who export commodities such as corn, and allowed U.S. manufacturers to source parts from all over North America.Some U.S. industries have trade disagreements with the neighboring countries to the north and south. They want those addressed in the renegotiations, but they generally don’t want the deal to be scrapped.Governors tend to focus on how trade agreements such as NAFTA help — or hurt — specific industries in their state, says Matt Gold, a former U.S. trade negotiator who is now an adjunct professor at Fordham University. He said that focus on the nitty-gritty tends to moderate their stance.

Definition of “Waters of the United States”-Schedule of Public Meetings

EPA | Posted on August 29, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Army (the agencies) will hold ten teleconferences to hear from stakeholders their recommendations to revise the definition of “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Nine of the teleconferences will be tailored to a specific sector, i.e., agriculture (row crop, livestock, silviculture); conservation (hunters and anglers); small entities (small businesses, small organizations, small jurisdictions); construction and transportation; environment and public advocacy (including health and environmental justice); mining; industry (energy, chemical, oil/gas); scientific organizations and academia; and stormwater, wastewater management, and drinking water agencies. One of the teleconferences will be open to the public at large. The teleconferences will run throughout the fall on Tuesdays from 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. eastern time, beginning on September 19, 2017. In addition, the agencies will hold an in-person meeting with small entities on October 23, 2017 from 9:00 a.m.-11 a.m., and will accept written recommendations from any member of the public.

Sign up to receive updates on progress of USDA Bioengineered Food Disclosure Rule

USDA | Posted on August 29, 2017

The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard Law was enacted by Congress on July 29, 2016. AMS has two years to establish the standard and the procedures necessary for implementation. AMS sought input from stakeholders through August 25. The public will also have the opportunity to comment on any proposed rule during the rulemaking process. To view the questions under consideration, visit the Proposed Rule Questions Under Consideration page on the AMS Website. Those interested may also subscribe to the AMS Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard topic to receive email updates about the progress of this rulemaking process.

USDA Seeks Public Input on Updates to Animal Welfare Act Licensing Requirements

Sierra Sun Times | Posted on August 24, 2017

Marking the 51st anniversary of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) this week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today asked for input from the public to help determine potential updates to the law’s licensing requirements.  The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is tasked with upholding and enforcing the AWA.  The AWA was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 24, 1966. “As a trained veterinarian, humane standards of care for animals are close to my heart and central to my love and concern for our four-legged friends,” Perdue said.  “Administering the AWA is a key USDA mission, and we are always looking for ways to improve.  We welcome comments from the public as APHIS considers changes to the licensing requirements to help us fulfill this important responsibility.”Each year, USDA issues nearly 6,000 licenses to people who breed, sell, or exhibit animals for commercial purposes.  The department is responsible for ensuring that these licensees comply with the AWA’s humane standards of care, which enables the American public to confidently purchase pets and view animals on public displa