The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health passed H.R. 2749, the “Food Safety Enhancement Act.” The bill increases the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority to regulate food. FDA is given authority to mandate food recalls, subpoena records, conduct on-farm inspections and impose civil penalties. Food facilities would be inspected by FDA based on risk. High-risk facilities would be inspected at least once every six to 18 months and low-risk facilities would be inspected every three to four years. The bill also provides for a study to analyze the incidence of antibiotic resistance as it pertains to the food supply and develop new methods to reduce the transfer of antibiotic resistance to humans.
Committee Deadline for Climate Change Legislation Set — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has set June 19 as the deadline for all committees with jurisdiction to complete action on the climate change legislation (HR 2454). Speaker Pelosi would like for the full House to pass the legislation before the July 4 recess. A key issue for members of the House Agriculture Committee is indirect land use. Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) has been meeting with House leadership to try and resolve this issue. Currently over 30 agricultural and farm organizations have stated their opposition to HR 2454, the Waxman-Markey bill. These include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Meat Institute, National Chicken Council, National Corn Growers Association and the National Turkey Federation.
USDA Announces Biofuels Directive — USDA announced plans to expedite and increase the production of biofuels in response to President Barack Obama’s May 5 directive. The USDA plans include:
- Loan guarantees for biorefineries.
- Assistance for biorefineries replacing fossil fuels. USDA will provide up to $20 million in financial assistance to biorefineries to replace fossil fuels used to produce heat or operate biorefineries with renewable biomass.
- Encouraging production of next-generation biofuels. USDA will provide $30 million to provide payments to eligible agricultural producers to support and ensure an expanding production of advanced biofuels.
- Harvesting, storing and transporting assistance. USDA is launching a program that will provide compensation for the collection, harvest, storage and transportation of biomass intended to meet the country’s energy needs. The program will provide financial assistance for delivery of eligible biomass material to conversion facilities that use biomass for heat, power, bio-based products or biofuels.
House Republicans Propose Cutting MAP — As the House of Representatives begins consideration of fiscal year 2010 appropriation bills, House Republican leaders are proposing cuts of more than $23 billion in various programs over the next five years. Included on the list is USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP), which has been used successfully by the agriculture community to promote U.S. agricultural products overseas. MAP was reauthorized in the 2008 farm bill.
FSA County Committee Nominations Open June 15 — USDA announced that farmer and rancher candidate nominations for the local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees will begin on June 15 and end on Aug. 3. Producers may nominate themselves or others. Organizations representing minorities and women may also nominate candidates. FSA will mail ballots to eligible voters beginning Nov. 6. Ballots are due at the county office by Dec. 7. Newly elected committee members and alternates take office Jan. 1, 2010.
P. Scott Shearer