Three U.S. senators have launched a legislative effort designed to allow meat and poultry products already inspected by state programs to be sold across state lines, which currently is prohibited. The bill introduced by U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Angus King (I-Maine) would open the door for products that are processed in 27 states to be sold in other nearby states and open up new markets to producers. Those states with regional Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs that also are certified by USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) often meet or exceed federal inspection standards, but the proteins currently cannot be sold in other states.
Last week, the USDA finally released its proposed rule outlining the ways in which it may implement the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. Here, I want to point out a few things that were news (at least to me) in the proposed rule.One of the controversial facets of the original bill was that it allowed for disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients via a QR code (this is an issue we have researched - e.g., see here). In addition to the QR code or a text disclosure, it appears companies might be able to also use one of several different types of labels (I am not aware of any publicly available research on consumer perception of these labels). It also appears that a food may only have to be labeled if it actually contains genetically engineered (or shall i now say "bioengineered") ingredients that contain recombinant DNA. Why does this matter? What will be the tolerances or thresholds that would trigger mandatory labeling?
Although the GOP repeal-and-replace mantra seems to have quieted, some Republican lawmakers continue efforts to get around the sweeping federal health law's requirements. Sometimes that happens in surprising places. Like the farm bill.Tucked deep inside the House version of the massive bill — amid crop subsidies and food assistance programs — is a provision that supporters say could help provide farmers with cheaper (and likely less comprehensive) health insurance than plans offered through the Affordable Care Act.
A Virginia state senator filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday, claiming that federal officials are illegally blocking access to a road in the Jefferson National Forest where several people are protesting construction of a natural gas pipeline. State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax), who is a lawyer, filed the suit at the federal courthouse in Roanoke after being prohibited from using the road to reach the protesters last week.His action opens another legal front in the fight over the right to protest the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile project that starts in West Virginia and crosses through Virginia’s southwest mountains.
This year Congress is expected to pass a piece of legislation that deeply affects the lives of all Americans and determines the strategic positioning of the United States in global agriculture for the next five years. The Farm Bill influences the food we eat, how we grow it, and the lives of the farmers who do so. Funding for agricultural research and development (R&D) only makes up a tiny sliver of the Farm Bill’s budget—about 0.2 percent in the 2014 bill—but it has profound consequences for U.S. agricultural competitiveness and global food security. The United States has historically been at the forefront of agricultural science and innovation, but our leadership is slipping: China has been outspending us 2 to 1on agricultural research since 2013.
The Pennsylvania congressional delegation has a unique opportunity to work together to restore the nonpartisan integrity of the nation's Farm Bill. Crafted generations ago to balance the needs of rural food producers with struggling food consumers, the Farm Bill has served as a remarkable example of law that reflects the best in government policymaking - until now.The 2018 Farm Bill proposal that is close to being debated by the House of Representatives represents a dangerous shift in that long-standing legislative history.The Farm Bill's flagship nutrition program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has been singled out for unprecedented and draconian changes. Democrats and Republicans should work together to improve SNAP, but the current proposal will be harmful to seniors, children and others who need the support of SNAP to get through a tough period in their lives.
The rules that dictate how companies must tell consumers when they are buying genetically engineered food are open for comment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking input on a proposed rule to create the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, which was passed by Congress in 2016. Comments are due by early July. The standard will provide a uniform way to offer meaningful disclosure for consumers who want more information about their food and avoid a patchwork system of state or private labels that could be confusing for consumers and would likely drive up food costs, the agency said in a news release.
Negotiations over a new North American trade deal have hit a major snag, leaving White House officials increasingly uncertain of their ability to hit their May 18 deadline for securing congressional approval of a new deal before year’s end. The main stumbling block involves a dispute over determiningwhich automobiles are given duty-free treatment under the agreement, according to five industry and U.S. government sources.After almost nine months of negotiations, the United States and its trading partners , Canada and Mexico, remain far apart on a host of contentiousissues, including U.S. demands that the treaty mustbe renewed every five years. Missing next week’s deadline could have significant consequences, given the political calendars in both the United States and Mexico. Depending on what happens in the next 10 days, Trump could opt to pause the negotiations, claim a partial agreement or even withdraw from the existing accord, though that appears unlikely. The president’s authority to negotiate trade deals that Congress must approve or reject without amendment expires July 1, coincidentally the date of Mexico’s presidential election.
The 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP) is providing payments to agricultural producers to offset losses from hurricanes Harvey, Irene and Maria and devastating wildfires. WHIP was authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. Sign-up for the new program will begin no later than July 16. FSA will distribute more information on how producers can file claims for WHIP disaster payments at a later date.For questions on how to establish farm records to be prepared when WHIP disaster signup begins, or to learn about other disaster assistance programs, producers are asked to contact their local USDA service center .
Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee dished up treats for the insurance and chemical industries, while handing empty bowls to millions of struggling Americans. The farm bill that cleared committee April 18 does nothing to increase transparency or accountability in the crop insurance program which pumps billions of taxpayer dollars into increasingly foreign-owned insurance companies.Insurance company profits from taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance have risen to a 35-percent return on investment, reports the Government Accountability Office, which recommends saving federal dollars by pegging the return to market rates. The House Agriculture Committee ignored that idea and bragged of making few changes in the $9 billion program. Insurers’ returns have climbed even while farm income has declined in recent years.