Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) sent a letter to over 60 fastfood companies, producers, processors and grocery chains asking them to disclose their policies on antibiotic use in meat and poultry production.  Slaughter is also asking that the companies release the percentage of meat produced with and without antibiotics and information on any restrictions on antibiotic use. 

In a statement, she stated, “Very simply, consumers have a right to know what's in their food.  It's like that old commercial, 'Where's the beef?' We just want to know what's in the beef. The United States is facing a growing public health crisis in the form of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Information about how these companies are contributing to its rise or resolution should be available to consumers.” 

Since 2007, Slaughter has introduced legislation, The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), to ban (prevention, control, growth promotion) the use of antibiotics for animals except for treatment when the animal is sick. 

USDA’s FY2013 Budget Request — The White House has released the president’s fiscal year 2013 budget request, which includes USDA’s $155 billion budget.  USDA’s budget includes $24 billion in discretionary funding and $131 billion in mandatory spending.  The discretionary spending is $700 million below the FY2012 levels and the mandatory spending is projected to increase by $8 billion due primarily to a one-time shift in the timing of certain crop insurance costs mandated by the 2008 farm bill.  

USDA’s budget proposes savings of $32 billion over 10 years by eliminating direct farm payments, decreasing subsidies to crop insurance companies and producers, and better targeting conservation funding to high priority levels.  The budget request is similar to last year’s proposal for the farm bill from the administration.  Budget highlights for livestock, meat and poultry include:

  • Food Safety: The budget proposes $995.5 million in funding for the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), a decrease of $8.9 million from FY ’12.  Proposed are two new user fees – a performance-based fee that will be charged for sample failures or additional reinspection due to regulatory non-compliance and a basic inspection fee to recover part of the cost of providing basic inspections.
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS): The budget proposes $762.4 million for the APHIS, which is a reduction of $54 million from last year.  It will continue to fund the animal disease traceability program and decrease funding for Johne’s disease programs, chronic wasting disease surveillance, and others.
  • Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS): AMS’s budget is proposed at $77 million in discretionary spending, a decrease of $5.1 million.  The Market News program is proposed at $33 million, which is similar to FY ’12. 
  • Packers & Stockyards:  The Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) is budgeted at $40.3 million, an increase of $2.5 million.  The budget proposes a $1 million increase for the Packers & Stockyards program. 
  • Research: The budget proposes $1.1 billion for the Agricultural Research Service, which is an increase of $8 million.  Priorities in the research area include: 1) food safety – identify and evaluate specific intervention strategies through the food production chain and expand research on antibiotic resistance, and 2) livestock protection – develop countermeasures and alternatives to antibiotics to prevent/treat pathogens affecting poultry and emerging diseases affecting farm animals. 

 

In addition, the administration is proposing a budget of $654 million for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – a 17% increase; $253 million is proposed for the Transforming Food Safety Initiative, which is to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Ag Groups Ask Congress to Pass Farm Bill this Year — Over 80 agricultural groups are asking Congress to reject the calls for delay and pass the farm bill this year.  

In a letter to the House and Senate Agricultural Committees’ leadership, the groups said, “Farmers need a safety net that works more effectively, and they need access to tools that help them be good stewards of our natural resources.  The farm bill also provides essential resources to prevent hunger, which is especially critical during these tough economic times.  The bill also addresses short and long-term job creation through streamlined and targeted rural economic development policies and investments in agricultural research.  A temporary extension of current policy creates tremendous uncertainty while serving to further none of these needs.” 

Those signing the letter included American Farm Bureau Federation, American Farmland Trust, American Soybean Association, Center for Rural Affairs, Ducks Unlimited, Environmental Defense Fund, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Wildlife Association, USA Rice Producers and World Wildlife Fund.