The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released the document, “Draft Guidance on the Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobials in Food-Producing Animals,” indicating a new policy goal for the use of antibiotics for animals. The agency said, “The overall weight of evidence available to date supports the conclusion that using medically important antimicrobial drugs for production or growth-enhancing purposes (i.e., non-therapeutic or sub-therapeutic uses) in food-producing animals is not in the interest of protecting and promoting the public health.” FDA had testified to this affect last summer. The National Pork Producers Council commented, “This guidance could eliminate certain antibiotics that are extremely important to the health of animals. FDA didn’t present any science on which to base this, yet it could have a tremendous negative impact on animal health and, ultimately, the safety of food. As we know, healthy animals produce safe food, and we need every available tool to protect animal health.” The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on July 15, regarding antibiotic usage in animals. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) has introduced legislation, the “Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act,” which would ban use of antibiotics for animals except for treatment.

Legislation Would Lift Travel, Trade Restrictions to Cuba — The House Agriculture Committee passed historic legislation that expands U.S. agriculture trade with Cuba and allows Americans to travel to Cuba. The “Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act” restores the original congressional intent of payment of cash in advance policy for Cuba’s purchases of U.S. farm products and eliminates the need for Cuba to use third-country banks to make payment to U.S. exporters. Texas A&M University estimates that lifting the travel restrictions will increase U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba in the long term by $336 million annually. The bill is strongly supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, USA Rice Federation and numerous other agricultural organizations.

Zero Funding for National Identification Program — The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee zeroed out all funding for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) program. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chair of the subcommittee, said, “We have spent over $147 million on this program since 2004. Six years later, we still have not seen a clear plan from USDA on successful implementation, even after they shifted to a more fragmented system in 2010.” USDA had requested $10.4 million for the program.

Senate Ag Committee Supports Hagan, Woteki Nominations — The Senate Agriculture Committee approved the nominations of Elisabeth Hagen as USDA under secretary for food safety, and Cathie Woteki as USDA under secretary for research, education and economics. The Senate will now consider these nominations.

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