The FDA on Thursday released two long-awaited final Food Safety Modernization Act regulations with sweeping new requirements for food and feed makers. The preventive controls rules earned praise from the industry and consumer groups — which have been waiting for the proposals for years — and immediately sparked more calls to boost the FDA’s budget.
The American Frozen Food Institute, Consumers Union, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Pew Charitable Trusts also called on Congress to fund FSMA right after the rules, which are more than 1,500 pages altogether, were posted on the Federal Register. The FDA estimates it’s about $276 million short of where it needs to be to implement the law. President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2016 request is $109 million, but appropriators in both chambers have proposed less than half of that.
FDA GIVES FARMERS A BREAK ON FSMA RULE: While we’re on food safety: The FDA seems to have beenlistening to the loud concern from farmers worried about being subject to the agency’s preventive controls rule. The agency expanded and clarified the definition of “farm,” a move that exempts many farms from the rule. Farms producing the vast majority of fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S. will still be subject to the requirements in the produce safety rule, which the FDA is expected to finalize by the end of October.
The final preventive controls rule — widely considered one of the most critical regulations mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act — reflects the FDA’s attempt to keep the measures tough enough to prevent some of the 48 million foodborne illnesses in the U.S. each year but also workable enough for a highly diverse food and farm system that spans all corners of the globe.
WTO MINISTERIAL COULD YIELD DOHA LITE: Next week, major World Trade Organization economies will huddle for a two-day meeting in Geneva to develop a basic picture of what kind of deal ministers could reach in the long-comatose Doha round. But the global trading body still hasn’t reached consensus on whether it should continue pursuing a deal that would cover all three pillars of the Doha agenda as initially conceived in 2001 — agricultural goods, industrial goods, and services — or cut their losses and stitch together whatever remnants they can.
“I think the next couple of weeks are critical, especially between now and the ministers meeting in Istanbul,” Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael Punke told POLITICO, referring to the G-20 trade ministers meeting on Oct. 5. “We don’t have very much time, and if we don’t get off to a good start between now and then, then it’s very hard to imagine this is going to come together in a positive way.”
CONAWAY: HOUSE AG TO HOLD DIETARY GUIDELINES HEARING: Agriculture interests will get a chance to tee off on the Dietary Guidelines process in October. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway told reporters Thursday that he has a hearing in the works. The date hasn’t been set but Conaway said he hopes to get both Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to testify.
The Texas Republican also responded to questions about immigration, saying that passing an agriculture guest worker program is as necessary as ever, though there’s more focus being put on a border security bill. But the real challenge, he said, is helping immigrants who are already here gain legal status. Conaway referenced a study from Texas A&M University that showed milk prices would nearly double without the illegal immigrants currently working in the industry.
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED ON GETTING A WOTUS INJUNCTION: A group of 14 states is trying again to get an injunction on the EPA’s Clean Water Rule within their borders after a decision by a judge in North Dakota that the rule could take effect in the 37 states not subject to the suit in front of him. The move by Georgia, Alabama and the 12 other states not included in the injunction reflects the head-scratching by opponents to the rule of how a program designed to be implemented nationwide can only be blocked from taking effect in certain places.
“The Clean Water Act is a federal program, [the Clean Water Rule] was designed to be a federal program covering all states,” Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association, told MA. The EPA “never said we ‘intend to do this state-by-state.’ The intent was the whole country. So we thought when the North Dakota judge gave that injunction, it would be the whole country, and we still feel that way.”
But following the EPA’s successful arguments in that case that the injunction should be limited, Bowling asks, “Does a judge have to rule in every state to get it done?”
The 14 states at issue in the case in Georgia have appealed Judge Lisa G. Wood’s August decision by arguing she lacked authority to grant an injunction on the rule. That suit now goes to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
EPA GETS STUNG IN SULFOXAFLOR RULING: The EPA is going to have to be careful going forward when justifying any decisions it makes on allowing the continued use of pesticides that could be harmful to bees. A federal court on Thursday scrapped the EPA’s approval of the insecticide sulfoxaflor, arguing that the agency’s professional judgement was flawed when it allowed the chemical on the market without sufficient data showing that it would not be harmful to bees. But the ruling comes as the EPA is preparing to review its approval of several pesticides in the same class as sulfoxaflor — known as neonicotinoids — that have also been linked to risks to pollinators, raising questions on how much the agency will have to justify whatever conclusions it reaches on those products.
“The opinion makes it very clear that EPA has got to have information about the impact an insecticide will have on a whole colony before it approves that pesticide,” said Greg Loarie, an attorney for Earthjustice, which was party to the lawsuit. “The reality is that EPA doesn’t have that information for nearly any pesticide.” Check back with Pro Agriculture later today for more on the story.
NOW A COMMON PICTURE IN CHINA: PEOPLE READING LABELS IN SUPERMARKETS: A slowing economy, high food prices, labor costs and concern over food safety is pushing people in China to alter their approach to food, reports the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. More people are reading ingredient labels in supermarkets and kid-specific food is on the rise in the country. The Chinese are also continuing the trend of purchasing foreign operations and importing food from those places, as the general population trusts the safety of foreign foods more than products coming from many domestic outlets.
CUBA TRADE EMBARGO COMPLICATED TO DISMANTLE: Lifting the Cuban trade embargo might not be as easy as 1, 2, 3. At an event hosted by the Global Business Dialogue, trade lawyer John Magnus pointed to at least eight laws that would likely have to be changed to remove trade restrictions with the island — even that wouldn’t normalize relations with the country equal to what other World Trade Organization countries receive.
Magnus, president of law and consulting firm TradeWins, said there appears to be some consensus on what statutes would have to be changed. These include provisions of the Foreign Assistance Act; the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act; the Food Security Act, so that Cuba can be added to U.S. sugar quota allocations; the Trading With The Enemy Act; the Export Administration Act as enforced through the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, to apply normal rather than specific export controls; and the 1999 appropriations bill for the Commerce Department.
It would also involve full repeal of the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, and the Helms-Burton Act, also known as the Libertad Act, he said. Other changes would have to be made, such as to the tax code, as well as removal of an exemption at the World Trade Organization that prevents Cuba from suing the U.S. for violating most favored nation rules.
“Light work for a legislature that is brimming with enlightened statesmanship and bipartisan goodwill,” Magnus joked.