The Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously approved the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010,” which reauthorizes childhood nutrition programs (school breakfast, school lunch, summer feeding program, etc.). The legislation provides $4.5 billion in additional child nutrition program funding over the next 10 years. Part of the increased funding is the result of redirecting $2.2 billion from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help pay for the legislation. A number of members of the committee raised concerns about cutting EQIP funds. Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (R-AR) said the proposal would only limit the growth in funding for EQIP and not cut producer payments. She pledged to work with committee members on the funding issue. The legislation invests in new initiatives to enroll more children in the national school breakfast and lunch programs. It increases the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches by 6 cents per meal, which will help schools meet new meal standards to provide children with healthier school meals. To help combat childhood obesity, the secretary of agriculture will be given the authority to establish national nutrition standards for all foods sold on the school campus throughout the school days. The bill also provides funding for schools to establish school gardens and to help schools source local foods. The bill also expands after-school meals for at-risk children, nationwide, to provide an after-school meal. Currently, communities are reimbursed for providing a snack. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “The Senate's Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is a significant step toward legislation that reduces hunger, improves the health of our children, and supports their academic achievement.”
Legislation Will Extend Ethanol Tax Credit — Congressmen Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and John Shimkus (R-IL) introduced the Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act. This legislation will extend the current Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) and the Small Ethanol Producers Tax Credit for five years. It will also extend the Cellulosic Ethanol Production Tax Credit for three years. According to the congressmen, a recent study warned that if the VEETC credit is allowed to expire at the end of 2010, it would cost 112,000 jobs and reduce domestic ethanol production by 38%. Congressmen Pomeroy and Shimkus said, “In 2009 alone, the increased tax revenue generated by American ethanol production returned $8.4 billion to the federal treasury, $3.4 billion more than the cost of VEETC.”
Enhanced Food Safety Rule — USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is seeking public comments on proposed measures to enhance food safety. The proposed rule would implement a provision of the 2008 Farm Bill and is a priority for the administration’s Food Safety Working Group. The proposed rule would require that regulated establishments: 1) Promptly notify FSIS if any unsafe, unwholesome or misbranded meat or poultry product have entered commerce; 2) Prepare and maintain current procedures for the recall of meat and poultry products produced and shipped by the establishment; and 3) Document each reassessment of the establishment's process control plans or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans. Public comments are due by May 24.
Joint Climate Change Prediction Research Program — USDA, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation announced the creation of a joint research program that designates nearly $50 million to develop climate system models that provide insights on climate variability and impacts on ecosystems. Roger Beachy, director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture said, “Climate change and its impacts on the land, crops and animals raise some of the most serious issues faced by producers and by society at large. It is important to understand its potential effect on our world and how we can proactively mitigate its consequences. Accurate and reliable scientific information is critical to sustain economically viable agricultural operations."
Meat & Poultry Appreciation Day — Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) has introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives declaring that March 20 is celebrated as National American Meat and Poultry Appreciation Day. The resolution was in response to the proclamation signed by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm declaring March 20 as “Michigan Meatout Day.” Congressman Camp said, “No one can dispute the fact that agriculture, including the meat and poultry industry, has buoyed the Michigan economy through an extremely difficulty period. Nearly 136,000 Michigan farm families get their livelihood from the meat and poultry industry that represents nearly $115 billion for the Michigan economy, and nearly 6% of the nation’s domestic product.”
Pork Producers Come to Washington, DC — Pork producers from throughout the Untied States came to Washington, DC last week to visit with their senators, congressmen and administration officials to discuss key issues facing the pork industry, including food safety, antibiotics, trade, and environmental issues. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) again hosted the Rack-of-Pork reception, one of the most popular congressional receptions held on Capitol Hill each year.
P. Scott Shearer