Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chair of the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee, has called for labels identifying mechanically tenderized beef and pork products. Congresswoman DeLauro said, “USDA has been aware of the E. coli risks associated with mechanically tenderized steaks as early as 1999, but has refused to act. The USDA should move immediately to require labeling that clearly identifies mechanically tenderized beef and pork products for all processing facilities, retailers and consumers. Restaurants, grocery stores, and consumers should be made fully aware of the products they are receiving so they can assure that they are cooked at the appropriate temperature.” Congresswoman DeLauro said this move was necessary because of National Steak and Poultry’s recall. The American Meat Institute (AMI) said, “Because blade-tenderized steaks have been found to be comparable in safety, we don't believe that special labeling declaring the mechanical tenderization process will provide meaningful or actionable information to consumers.”

USDA Announces New Crop Disaster Assistance Program — USDA announced the implementation of the new Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments program (SURE). This crop disaster assistance program is for producers who suffered crop production losses during the 2008 crop year. SURE provides crop disaster assistance payments to eligible producers on farms that have incurred crop production or crop quality losses. SURE provides assistance in an amount equal to 60% of the difference between the SURE farm guarantee and total farm revenue. The farm guarantee is based on the amount of crop insurance and Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) coverage on the farm. Total farm revenue takes into account the actual value of production on the farm as well as insurance indemnities and certain farm program payments. To be eligible, producers must have suffered at least a 10% production loss on a crop of economic significance. In addition, producers must meet the risk management purchase requirement by either obtaining a policy or plan of insurance, under the Federal Crop Insurance Act or NAP coverage, for all economically significant crops. Sign-up for the program begins on Jan. 4, 2010. This program was authorized by the 2008 farm bill. For more information, you can contact your local FSA county office or www.fsa.usda.gov.

Congress and 2010 — Congress will return in mid-January with a number of items on the agenda. Foremost will be the House-Senate conference committee on health care reform. The Democratic leadership would like to send the final bill to President Obama early next year. Other issues to be considered will be the 2011 budget, fiscal year 2011 appropriations, estate tax, tax extenders package, tariff on imported ethanol, blenders’ tax credit for ethanol, Food & Drug Administration food safety reform, antibiotics and livestock, and child nutrition reauthorization.

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