President Barrack Obama signed into law the recently passed Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Reform bill. This new law provides the most substantive changes to food safety laws since the 1930s. FDA will now focus more on preventing contamination rather than interceding after outbreaks. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates an additional $1.4 billion will be needed by FDA over the next five years to implement the law. Much of the new money is needed to hire 2,000 additional inspectors to conduct more frequent inspections of facilities. Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA), likely chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee, has expressed concerns about the new law and additional funding. A spokesman for Congressman Kingston said, “While no one wants anyone to get sick, and we all want a safe food supply, the case just isn’t there right now for a $1.4 billion increase in spending.”

Health Care Repeal — The House Republican leadership has announced the House of Representatives will conduct a vote this week to repeal last year’s health care bill. The action is mostly symbolic, since the vote to repeal will pass the House but fail in the Senate. It is expected there will be numerous attempts this year by the Republican leadership to modify and/or downsize last year’s health care bill or limit funding for implementation. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated repealing the health care bill would raise the national debt by $230 billion.

USDA Outlook Conference — USDA's annual Agricultural Outlook Forum titled "Today's Strategies & Tomorrow's Opportunities" will be held Feb. 24-25, 2011 in Arlington, VA. USDA announced Christine Cochran, president, Commodity Markets Council, will serve as moderator. Plenary panel speakers include: Nariman Behravesh, chief economist, IHS Global Insight on “Critical Issues Shaping the Global Economic Outlook;” Charles Whitman, founder and CEO, Infinium Capital Management on “Electronic Trading and the Globalization of Grain Markets;” Pete Nessler, president, FCStone, LLC on “A Brokerage Firm's Approach to Risk Management;” and, Michael Copps, commissioner, Federal Communications Commission on “Opening the Internet to the Rural Community.” A number of breakout sessions will cover risk management, renewable energy, rural communities, domestic markets and foreign trade, conservation and the environment, nutrition and USDA dietary guidelines, land tenure issues, broadband and sustainability. Further information and registration can be found at www.usda.gov/oce/forum.

Congressional Freshman Class One of the Biggest Ever — The 112th Congress was sworn in with 96 new congressmen and 16 new senators. This is one of the largest freshman classes in congressional history. On the first day of the new session, the leadership was installed. The House of Representatives leadership includes Congressmen John Boehner (R-OH), speaker; Eric Cantor (R-VA), majority leader; Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), majority whip, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), minority leader, and Steny Hoyer (D-MD), minority whip. The Senate leadership will remain the same with Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), majority leader; Dick Durbin (D-IL), majority whip; Mitch McConnell (R-KY), minority leader; and Jon Kyle (R-AZ), minority whip. As Republicans take control of the House, they have indicated their key themes will be to cut spending, create jobs and grow the economy. They plan to cut spending back to 2008 levels, which would mean cutting $60 billion for the remainder of this fiscal year. They also plan to cut House committee budgets by 5%, which would save an estimated $25-30 million.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.