Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) has introduced the Meat Safety and Accountability Act which would mandate quicker, more extensive actions by USDA inspectors to trace meat products back to their point of origin when they are either adulterated or contaminated with pathogens, such as E. coli and salmonella. The bill would require the federal meat inspection program to identify all sources of original adulteration and contamination of enteric foodborne pathogens in meat, including the slaughterhouse source, when either lab samples test positive for pathogen adulteration or contamination or when adulterated or contaminated meat is found in commerce, including foodborne outbreaks. Senator Tester said, “This bill puts more common sense and fairness into the equation as our food travels through the supply chain to the kitchen table. This bill will make our food safer to eat by ramping up accountability. And it will help small meat processors in rural America that too often get blamed for contamination that didn’t begin with them.”

U.S.-Brazil Deal Settles Trade Dispute — The United States and Brazil reached an agreement to settle the long-standing trade dispute concerning subsidies for U.S. cotton that could have imposed hundreds of millions of dollars in tariffs on U.S. agricultural products and industrial goods. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced that the United States and Brazil have agreed upon a path toward a negotiated settlement with Brazil over the cotton dispute. Secretary Vilsack indicated the agreement will not require the United States to reopen the farm bill, which has been a concern of U.S. agriculture. Vilsack said, “I am so pleased that we were able to agree on a path forward with Brazil that will avoid the imposition of countermeasures on U.S. agricultural products and industrial goods that Brazil had announced would go into effect on Wednesday. Both the United States and Brazil will benefit by working together to resolve our dispute. I am also pleased that our path forward respects our farm bill process and the role of Congress in shaping our commodity programs. I look forward to working with Congress and Brazil to crafting a long-term, mutually-agreeable solution to this dispute that meets the needs of American farmers, workers and consumers." As part of the agreement, the United States pledged to publish a proposed rule by April 16 to recognize the state of Santa Catarina (southern Brazil) as free of foot-and-mouth disease, rinderpest, classical swine fever, African swine fever, and swine vesicular disease based on World Organization for Animal Health Guidelines.

Brazil Drops Tariff on Imported Ethanol — Brazil has announced it will eliminate its 20% tariff on imported ethanol through the end of 2011. The move is seen as an effort to influence this year’s Congressional debate on the U.S. tariff on imported ethanol that expires the end of this year. Growth Energy, a coalition of ethanol supporters, in a statement, said: “Despite whatever Brazil is temporarily doing, because Brazilian ethanol already enjoys generous subsidies from the Brazilian government, and to provide them access to additional subsidies from the U.S. government makes no sense.”

U.S.-Japan Discuss Beef — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Japan’s Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Hirtaka Akamatsu, met in Tokyo last week and discussed a number of bilateral issues, including beef. In a statement, Secretary Vilsack said, “Given the importance of a candid exchange of views regarding import conditions for U.S. beef and beef products based on science and international standards, we both underscored the commitment of our respective governments to continue discussions. The minister and I share the view that United States and Japanese officials will continue the dialogue through a series of senior and working level meetings in order to establish a mutually agreeable framework for the import conditions for U.S. beef and beef products. This issue remains a high priority for the United States and our objective remains a framework that is consistent with science and international standards.” Currently, Japan allows U.S. beef from cattle 20 months of age or younger. It is estimated that if Japan would allow U.S. beef from cattle 30 month of age or younger, it will create an additional $1 billion market.

Congress Back in Session — Congress returns after a two-week Easter recess. The Senate plans to consider the Food & Drug Administration food safety reform bill in the next few weeks. The House Agriculture Committee will begin hearings on the 2012 farm bill this month.

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