Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Vilsack Speaks at Conference on Avian Influenza

On July 28, 2015, at a two day conference called, “Avian Influenza Outbreak…Lessons Learned,” in Des Moines, Iowa, Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture and Iowa Governor, Terry Branstad, gave speeches concerning the avian influenza outbreak.  The conference is closed to the media and public, other than the speeches, in order to ensure open discussion on how responses to the last outbreak went wrong and how future responses can be improved.

According to the Associated Press, Vilsack in his speech commented it would be beneficial to implement a disaster program for poultry producers that would be similar to what is already in place for livestock producers.  The government expects to spend 191 million through its indemnification program and between 350-400 million on the cleanup and depopulation of infected birds.  Vilsack stated there was a proposed insurance program within the 2014 farm bill but was cut due to budgetary considerations.

Vilsack commented during questioning for reporters that if this moves to the East Coast the impact could be quickly outpace the impact of the last outbreak.  Vilsack remarked the process of handling future outbreaks needs to be updated in multiple areas including the indemnification process, how to dispose of the birds and the depopulation of the birds.

To hear a recording of the question session with reporters,click here.

Written by Katharine Richter - Research Assistant

July 29, 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Chesapeake Executive Council Meets in Washington

On July 23, 2015, the Chesapeake Executive Council met in Washington D.C. to discuss the status of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts.

During the meeting, the Council announced the introduction of 25 management strategies to improve the health of the Bay. The council also agreed on two resolutions, one of which will increase the use of riparian forest buffers to meet cleanup and nutrient reduction goals. The resolution seeks to introduce new strategies and work plans with the USDA via conservation programs aimed at riparian buffers. The council also approved two joint letters, one of which focused on programs to keep livestock out of streams.

Pennsylvania Secretary John Quigley, from the state Department of Environmental Protection, reaffirmed Pennsylvania’s commitment to the cleanup and restoration efforts following an EPA assessment that declared the state to be “substantially off-track” in meeting with reduction goals. Secretary Quigley said that the state will improve the restoration efforts by increasing compliance enforcement, and by better accounting for the voluntary efforts made by farmers to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff. If the state fails to make improvements, the EPA may begin greater oversight within the area.

The deadline for the states to meet the nutrient reduction goals is set for 2025, with the next interim assessment set for 2017.

Written by Tyler R. Etter- Research Assistant
July 28, 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

Fruit and Nut Producers Granted Greater Crop Insurance Options

In a news release dated July 23, 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the federal crop insurance program will be expanding to provide fruit and nut producers with greater coverage options.  According to USDA, under the new program, producers in select counties will now have the ability to purchase a Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) and the Actual Production History (APH) Yield Exclusion as part of their overall crop insurance coverage.

USDA stated that “SCO is an area-based policy endorsement that can be purchased to supplement an underlying crop insurance policy.  It covers a portion of losses not covered by the same crop’s underlying policy.” As a result of the new program expansion, “almonds, apples, blueberries, grapes, peaches, potatoes, prunes safflower, tomatoes, and walnuts” are eligible for SCO in select counties in 2016. 

USDA further asserted that “[t]he APH Yield Exclusion allows farmers, with qualifying crops in eligible counties, to exclude low yields in exceptionally bad years (such as a year in which a natural disaster or other extreme weather occurs) from their production history when calculating yields used to establish their crop insurance coverage.”  As a result of the announced change to the crop insurance program, “apples, blueberries, grapes, peaches, potatoes, prunes safflower, tomatoes, and walnuts.” will now be eligible for APH in select counties in 2016.

According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, “[p]roviding these [crop insurance] options for our producers of fresh fruit and nuts gives them the stronger safety net they need to continue farming, even after particularly bad years.”

For additional information regarding crop insurance, please click here.
Written by M. Sean High - Staff Attorney
July 27, 2015

FDA Comment Period Opens for Proposed Added Sugar Labeling

On July 27, 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) opened the comment period for a proposed rule update that would require Nutrition Facts labels to include percent daily value (% DV) for added sugars.

The FDA, on their webpage, claim adding the information to the label will allow consumers to make more informed choices.  According to FDA, “Americans get 16 percent of their total calories from added sugars.”  Following recommendations from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other expert groups such as the American Heart Association, the FDA wants to encourage Americans to cut down on added sugars because they provide “no additional nutrient value” and cause individuals to “eat less nutrient rich foods.” 

In a study conducted by the FDA to see how the proposed labeling would affect consumers, the majority of participants were able to correctly identify the amount of sugars in a serving when it included an added sugars declaration.  When there was a high amount of added sugar, high amount being dependent on the food, there was a trend towards having “more negative judgments on the product’s healthfulness.” 

The Sugar Association on their online blog commented on the proposed rule as being “based on the limited and weak scientific evidence found in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines report.”  The association declared they plan to oppose the proposal.

Written by Katharine Richter - Research Assistant

July 27, 2014

Friday, July 24, 2015

House of Representatives Passes Pompeo GMO Bill

On July 23, 2015, the House of Representatives passed HR 1599 with a vote of 275 for and 150 against. The majority of support came from Republicans, but 45 Democrats supported the bill as well.

HR 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, will preempt any state laws that seek to create GMO labeling requirements, including the mandatory labeling law enacted in Vermont that is set to take effect in 2016. Supporters of the bill claim that the enactment of HR 1599 will prevent the creation of an unworkable system of different state laws with no consistency, making compliance for producers difficult. Opponents of the bill claim that HR 1599 harms transparency to the consumer.

In a vote following the passage of the bill, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) made a proposed amendment to the bill’s title, aiming to change the title to “A bill to enact the 'Deny Americans the Right to Know Act' or the 'DARK Act'." The amendment failed 87 to 337.

Although the bill has passed the House, the debate is far from over. The next area of contention will be in the Senate. Opponents of the bill believe it will falter in the Senate, but supporters claim that support is growing.

Written by Tyler R. Etter- Research Assistant
July 24, 2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015

National Pork Producers Council Urges Repeal of COOL

On July 20, 2015, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and its state chapters wrote a letter urging the Senate to repeal country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for beef, pork, and chicken.

The NPPC letter states that unless COOL is repealed, the World Trade Organization will calculate and authorize what level of retaliation Canada and Mexico can place on the United States.  Mexico and Canada are insisting that the retaliatory tariffs will happen if COOL is not repealed and will remain until COOL is repealed. 

The NPPC letter asserts there will be a negative economic impact if the senate chooses to not repeal COOL.  According to the NPPC letter, Mexico was the United States second largest export market for pork in 2014 and totaled $1.55 billion and Canada was the third largest export market totaling $984 million.  “Exports helped add $63 to the price of each hog marketed last year. Furthermore, pork exports support more than 147,000 U.S. jobs.”  The NPPC letter states that jobs will be affected if COOL is not repealed, “[a]ccording to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, the U.S. economy stands to lose 17,000 jobs if the WTO sets a retaliation level of $2 billion. Over 25,000 U.S. jobs will be lost if the retaliation level is set at $3 billion.”

The NPPC letter urges the Senate to repeal COOL before the August recess.

Written by Katharine Richter - Research Assistant

July 23, 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Vilsack Testifies Regarding Bird Flu Vaccine

On July 22, 2015, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testified before the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture and addressed the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) latest efforts regarding Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). 

At the hearing, Vilsack stated that USDA was working to produce a vaccine to combat the spread of HPAI.  According to the Secretary, a seed strain vaccination has been developed, and the vaccine has proven to be 100% effective when tested on chickens.  Though Vilsack did not provide a timeline for the availability, he did state that the vaccine was currently being tested on turkeys and if proven effective, would hopefully be ready for production in the near future. 

Relatedly, the Secretary stated that USDA was working on efforts to ensure that U.S. trading partners would not penalize future exports if a vaccine is employed.  Vilsack suggested that any foreign ban on U.S. poultry products could be limited regionally (where the vaccine is used) and not nationally.

To view Secretary Vilsack’s testimony, please click here.
Written by M. Sean High - Staff Attorney
July 22, 2015