Twenty-six senators have written Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to state their strong support for implementation of country-of-origin labeling (COOL). They commended the administration for its efforts regarding the World Trade Organization complaint filed by Canada and Mexico. The senators said, “We believe that, in a manner consistent with General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) obligations, the COOL program as signed into law in the 2008 Farm Bill is nondiscriminatory in its treatment of imported goods, mandating that both domestic and imported goods covered under the law be labeled with country of origin.” Those signing the letter were Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mike Enzi (R-WY), John Barrasso (R-WY), Max Baucus (D-MT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Richard Shelby (D-AL), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), John Tester (D-MT), John Thune (R-SD), David Vitter (R-LA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Slaughter - Antibiotics Threatens U.S. Pork Exports — Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, said that Russia’s recent action to ban U.S. pork and poultry imports should be a wake-up call to U.S. producers. Russia earlier announced it was stopping imports of U.S. pork because of a dispute over standards for antibiotic residue, and poultry because of chlorine rinse used in processing. She said, “These decisions by Russia should be a wake-up call that we can no longer continue to count on exporting livestock of dubious safety to other countries. The overuse of antibiotics has potentially serious trade implications as other countries decide that the risks are not worth it. And, using chlorine to kill bacteria in our food supply is not a sane way to operate. We must move quickly to limit the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in our farm animals so that our farm industry is not hurt even more.” Congresswoman Slaughter has introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMPTA) which would phase out non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animals. Her legislation goes beyond the current policy in Denmark, which only bans the use of antibiotics for growth promotion.

Taiwan Reinstates Ban on U.S. Beef — Taiwan’s legislature voted to reinstate a ban on certain U.S. beef products. This includes ground beef, cow offal and other related products. This is a major step backwards from the agreement that the United States and Taiwan reached last October. Reaction from the administration was strong and swift. In a joint statement, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk said, “We are deeply disappointed with the decision by Taiwan's Legislative Yuan to amend the Food Sanitation Act (FSA) to unjustifiably bar the import of certain U.S. beef and beef products. As we noted in our statement on Dec. 29, the FSA amendment's provisions do not have a basis in science and constitute a unilateral violation of a bilateral agreement concluded in good faith by the United States with Taiwan a little over two months ago. The protocol was negotiated on the basis of the guidelines laid out by the World Organization for Animal Health (Office of International Epizootics), as well as the findings of Taiwan's own risk assessment, which concluded that all U.S. beef and beef products are safe. The decision by Taiwan authorities to place domestic politics over science raises serious concerns. This action will also undermine Taiwan's credibility as a responsible trading partner and will make it more challenging for us to conclude future agreements to expand and strengthen bilateral trade and economic ties.” Taiwan plans to send a delegation to the United States to meet with administration officials.

Dairy Advisory Committee — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the formation of the federal Dairy Industry Advisory Committee. The committee over the next two years is to review the issues of farm milk price volatility, dairy farmer profitability and consolidation, and offer suggestions on ways USDA can best address the needs of the dairy industry. There are 17 members representing producers, processing, state government, retail, academia and consumers.

More Retirement Plans Told — Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Byron Dorgan (D-ND), chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, announced they will not be running for reelection. This brings a total of nine senators who are retiring or running for another office. Congressman Henry Brown (R-SC) announced he is retiring from the House of Representatives. This makes 24 congressmen (10 Democrats and 14 Republicans) who will be leaving the House after the 2010 election. More announcements are expected in the coming months. Senator Dorgan was a key leader in the Senate in opening Cuba for agricultural sales.

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