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New Survey Results Highlight Variation in Food Safety Practices Prior to the Produce Rule

Amber Waves - USDA | Posted on August 16, 2018

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 included a new Produce Rule that sets specific disease-preventive requirements for produce that is consumed raw in the United States. ERS researchers conducted a survey of produce growers prior to implementation of the Produce Rule to highlight variation in food safety practices.Larger growers have consistently adopted food safety practices at higher rates than smaller growers, but even some growers who will not be required to meet Produce Rule (PR) standards used food safety practices.When surveyed (before the PR was enacted), the majority of growers who would be covered by the PR already tested the water they used, although they may or may not have tested it as frequently as the PR requires or met other required criteria.At the time of the survey, growers who conducted third-party food safety audits spent about 2 to 10 times as much on costs measured in the survey as growers that did not audit

Estimated cost for producers to comply with FSMA produce rule

USDA | Posted on August 16, 2018

This study estimates farm-level costs to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act's Produce Safety Rule by commodity, State, and farm size. Across commodities and States, differences in costs are driven by differences in farm size and range from 0.3 percent of annual produce sales for the largest farms to 6.8 percent for the smallest.As part of the rule-making process, FDA estimated the cost of compliance with the Produce Rule for a few broad categories of farms distinguished by annual produce sales value and exemption status. In its analysis, FDA estimated the total costs of compliance to be $368 million for domestic farms (annualized over 10 years, using a 7-percent discount rate) but did not estimate the costs by commodities or regions. Using those original FDA estimates, this study provides estimates of the cost of compliance with the Produce Rule by commodity, State, and farm size (based on sales).

Judge upholds permanent removal of Oregon wild horses

Capital Press | Posted on August 16, 2018

A federal judge refused to overturn the government’s decision to permanently remove about 150 wild horses from Eastern Oregon’s Three Fingers Management Area despite a legal error.

Interior's wildlife chief resigns amid changes to endangered species rules

Washington Examiner | Posted on August 16, 2018

The Interior Department's wildlife chief resigned as the agency is in the middle of a making a number of changes to how it enforces endangered species protections.Sheehan is leaving at a time when the Interior Department issued three major regulations changing how it enforces the Endangered Species Act, which critics say favor developers and energy companies.Sheehan had served on the Utah wildlife management service before coming to Washington. There , he oversaw the development of state-based management plans for the greater the chicken-sized sage grouse, the Utah prairie dog, and other animals native to the state. The agency said he was "a key liaison" between the states and the Interior Department on Endangered Species Act issues.

The process FDA is undertaking for reviewing and modernizing the agency’s standards of identity for dairy products

FDA | Posted on August 16, 2018

One area that needs greater clarity – and which has been the subject of much discussion of late – is the wide variety of plant-based foods that are being positioned in the marketplace as substitutes for standardized dairy products. Many of these plant-based foods use traditional dairy terms (e.g., milk, yogurt, cheese) in the name of the product. For instance, we’ve seen a proliferation of products made from soy, almond or rice calling themselves milk.  However, these alternative products are not the food that has been standardized under the name “milk” and which has been known to the American public as “milk” long before the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) was established. In addition, some of these products can vary widely in their nutritional content – for instance in relation to inherent protein or in added vitamin content – when compared to traditional milk. We intend to look at these differences in relation to potential public health consequences. There are reports that indicate this issue needs examination. For example, case reports show that feeding rice-based beverages to young children resulted in a disease called kwashiorkor, a form of severe protein malnutrition. There has also been a case report of a toddler being diagnosed with rickets, a disease caused by vitamin D deficiency, after parents used a soy-based alternative to cow’s milk.  Because these dairy alternative products are often popularly referred to as ‘‘milk,’’ we intend to look at whether parents may erroneously assume that plant-based beverages’ nutritional contents are similar to those of cow’s milk, despite the fact that some of these products contain only a fraction of the protein or other nutrients found in cow’s milk.

Animal drug user fee legislation clears Congress

Feedstuffs | Posted on August 16, 2018

House and Senate lawmakers secured passage of the Animal Drug & Animal Generic Drug User Fee Amendments of 2018 (H.R. 5554/S.2434), which are vital to increasing veterinary access to drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. The House passed the bill on July 16, and the Senate passed the bill on July 31. It now awaits the final signature by the President. The American Veterinary Medical Assn. (AVMA) called it “a significant victory for the veterinary community” because the legislation includes language that would expand conditional approvals beyond minor uses and minor species.

Senate minibus spending bill addresses ag needs

Feedstuffs | Posted on August 16, 2018

The Senate passed the minibus appropriations bill, which contains several important amendments addressing issues pertinent to agriculture. Besides funding for agriculture, the minibus also offers interior, financial and transportation funding. It also prohibits the closure of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices and provides funding to hire additional FSA loan officers. On the research front, it provides $2.726 billion to support agricultural research conducted by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food & Agriculture. It also provides $405 million for the Agriculture & Food Research Initiative. It specifically provides $1 million in ARS funding for each of the following: the Pulse Crop Health Initiative, chronic wasting disease, sugar beets, alfalfa research and small grain genomics. It maintains funding at $3 million for UAS Precision Agriculture and $8.7 million for the U.S. Wheat & Barley Scab Initiative. Specifically, the bill continues funding for the Agriculture Risk Coverage pilot program to offer an alternate calculation method for crop payments when National Agricultural Statistics Service data are insufficient.

'They’re the lifeblood': O'Neill raid highlights importance of growing immigrant workforce to agriculture

Omaha World Herald | Posted on August 13, 2018

The immigration enforcement action last week in this north-central Nebraska ranching community of 3,700 illuminated how important immigrant workers have become in Nebraska, particularly to the state’s largest industry, agriculture. More than 130 workers were snared in the operation, which was focused on a group that allegedly conspired to exploit, and profit from, the immigrant laborers.The raid left a shortage of workers at a local hydroponic tomato greenhouse, where 250,000 pounds of tomatoes are picked and packed each week, and at one of the state’s largest cattle feedlots, where reportedly 70,000 cattle a day are watered and fed.In rural Holt County, where the unemployment rate is 2.6 percent, the struggle to find people in a tight labor market to fill the often hard, dirty and low-paying jobs like feeding cattle or picking tomatoes has people turning to immigrants.“Labor is tough,” said rancher Kirk Shane, as he directed traffic at the Holt County Fair in Chambers. “I remember when we could hire kids for the summer. Now you can’t get them — they’re either too busy with sports or you can’t rely on them.”The “now hiring” signs outside of the O’Neill Ventures tomato greenhouse have been posted there for several weeks, and now they carry even more urgency after perhaps two-thirds of the company’s workforce was hauled away.

Trump's trade aid plan could breach WTO farm subsidy limit

Politico | Posted on August 10, 2018

President Donald Trump’s $12 billion plan to compensate farmers for financial losses stemming from his decision to impose tariffs on imports could push U.S. trade-distorting farm subsidies to their highest level since the late 1990s and potentially exceed WTO limits, former U.S. agriculture officials said.The highly controversial trade aid package creates a policy contradiction as the U.S. gears up for trade talks with the European Union. The administration is preparing to pay out additional subsidies to American agricultural producers at the same time it says it is embarking on talks with the EU to eliminate all tariffs, subsidies and non-tariff barriers across the Atlantic, though the two sides disagree on whether agriculture will be part of those negotiations.And on a practical level, the Trump administration's aid plan could lead some farmers to get paid twice for losses, if they signed up for federal price support and insurance programs, the former officials said.“I think it's very, very likely that there will be some double-dipping on these losses,” said Joe Glauber, a former USDA chief economist.


Giant shipload of soya beans circles off China, victim of trade war with US

The Guardian | Posted on August 10, 2018

A shipment of soya beans worth more than $20m (£15.5m) has been bobbing aimlessly in the Pacific Ocean for a month, a casualty of the escalating trade war between China and the US.Lingering uncertainty over the cargo’s fate offered a timely reminder of the fallout from a dispute that intensified on Wednesday, as the US president, Donald Trump, unveiled a second round of tariffs on $16bn of Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to respond in kind.China hits back against latest US tariffs; pound hit by Brexit worries – as it happened. The Peak Pegasus, a 229 metre bulk carrier weighing 43,000 tonnes, has become the reluctant symbol of the potential consequences of this tit-for-tat trade spat. The ship, owned by JP Morgan Asset Management, was scheduled to unload about 70,000 tonnes of American soya beans in the Chinese port of Dalian on 6 July, shortly after Trump imposed a first round of tariffs on $34bn-worth of goods.