Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Senator Argues USDA Funds Needed for Avian Flu Outbreak

  On June 22, 2015, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) urged Congress to not cut $500 million in funding from USDA programs.  Schumer argued the funding should be used to help manage the current avian flu outbreak and could be used for vaccination efforts, “biosecurity” measures, as well as research costs to discover more on how the virus is transmitted.

  According to the press release in the Senator’s website, the impact on consumers and retailers is already being felt and only expected to rise.  The press release stated egg prices have increased to record levels.  In New York, the average wholesale price for a dozen eggs ranges from $1.60-$1.66, beating the 2014 record of $1.42.  “Breaker” eggs used by restaurants and other food producers have increased in price by 273%, causing companies to seek alternative ingredients in response to the decreasing supply. 

   According to the USDA website, as of June 17, 2015, 48,091,293 birds have been affected by Avian Influenza.  Of the total birds affected, approximately 80% are egg laying hens, nationwide that accounts for 10% of the egg laying population.

    The Fiscal Year 2016 Agriculture Appropriations Bill was approved by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on June 17.  It was set to be considered by the full committee on June 25 but was postponed.

Written by Katharine Richter - Research Assistant

June 30, 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

WOTUS Rule Effective Date Set for Aug. 28, 2015

On Monday June 29, 2015, the EPA published the final CleanWater Rule, also known as the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, in the federal register setting the effective date for August 28, 2015.

According to the text of the rule, the rule is meant to “clarify the scope of the waters…protected by the Clean Water Act (CWA)…” The rule maintains current exemptions for activities, and in some instances expands the exceptions “to make it clear that this rule does not add any additional permitting requirements on agriculture.” According to an EPA fact sheet, the Clean Water Rule is meant to provide greater clarity for agriculture within the existing requirements.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has claimed that the final WOTUS rule is broader than the original proposed rule, and rather than clarifying the requirements, creates more uncertainty for farmers. The Farm Bureau claims the new exceptions are too narrow to be of use, or so unclear as to be open only to agency interpretation.

The 60-day period for judicial review of the rule is set to begin on July 13, 2015.

Written by Tyler R. Etter- Research Assistant
June 29, 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

USDA Deputy Administrator Discusses Voluntary GMO Labeling Program

  On June 25, 2015, The House Agricultural Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research held a public hearing reviewing USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) programs. 
  At the hearing, Deputy Administrator of Livestock Poultry and Seed Program for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Dr. Craig Morris, testified regarding AMS recently approving a process verified program that allows companies to voluntarily seek third-party verification to market their products as non-GMO that are 99.1% or above non-genetically engineered material.  According to the AMS program, if a company’s product is verified, they are permitted to sell that product using the USDA Process Verified Shield.

  Chairman of the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Rodney Davis (R-IL), remarked in his closing statements that USDA has “the capability and resources to provide valuable oversight of these voluntary marketing claims” and that the U.S. currently has “a robust regulatory review process to ensure human, plant and animals health, as well as environmental health.”

Written by Katharine Richter - Research Assistant

June 26, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Senate Passes Trade Bill

On June 24, 2015, the U.S. Senate passed the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act (S. 995) by a vote of 60-38.  The Act, which was lobbied for by the Obama administration, now awaits the President’s signature.

Known as “fast-track,” the Act, intended to make it easier for goods to reach international markets, provides the President greater authority in negotiating trade deals. According to the Act, Congress will not have the ability to amend proposed trade agreements, but will only be permitted to vote yes or no.  Additionally, the Senate will not be permitted to filibuster proposed trade agreements.

Following the Senate passage of the Act, Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a press release stating “[t]oday the Senate helped move America closer to securing responsible agreements that open markets for America’s farmers, ranchers and agribusiness and create jobs and improve wages across the country.”

On June 18, 2015, similar “fast-track” legislation (H.R. 1890) passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 218-208.   

To read the Congressional Research Service’s report regarding the proposed “fast-track” legislation, please click here.    
Written by M. Sean High - Staff Attorney
June 25, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Supreme Court Sides with Raisin Growers

On May 22, 2015, the United States Supreme Court struck down that the federal raisin marketing order's reserve requirement clause as an unconstitutional taking of property. 

Prior to the Court’s ruling, in order to be permitted to sell raisin, all raisin growers were required to participate in the federal raisin marketing order program.  Importantly, as part of the federal raisin marketing order program, all raisin growers were required to surrender (or “reserve”) a portion of their crop to the federal government without any compensation.   

In an eight to one ruling, the Court determined that the federal raisin marketing order’s reserve requirement violated the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment forbidding the government from taking property without just compensation.  According to the Court, raisins are property and the federal government does not have the right to force a business owner to surrender a portion of that property simply for the privilege of participating in commerce. 
To read the full Court opinion, please click here.
Written by M. Sean High - Staff Attorney
June 24, 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

WHO Evaluates Carcinogenicity of 2,4-D Herbicide

On June 22, 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released an evaluation on the carcinogenicity of the herbicide 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D).

2,4-D, introduced in 1945, has been widely used to control weeds in agricultural, forestry, urban, and residential settings. Occupational exposure occurs during the manufacturing and application of the herbicide and the general public can be exposed through food, water, dust, and residential application. According to the report, humans expel 2,4-D mostly unchanged through urine.

The IRAC has evaluated 2,4-D to be “possibly carcinogenic to humans”, with “inadequate evidence in humans” and “limited evidence in experimental animals.” IRAC states that there is strong evidence that 2,4-D induces oxidative stress, as well as moderate evidence that 2,4-D can cause immunosuppression. The study did not find strong or consistent increases in cancer risks as a result of exposure to 2,4-D.

The IRAC also evaluated the insecticides lindane and DDT, categorizing the two as “carcinogenic to humans” and “probably carcinogenic to humans” respectively.

The summary of the evaluations can be found here. The full evaluations will be published as Volume 113 of the IARC Monographs. 

Written by Tyler R. Etter- Research Assistant
June 23, 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

PDA Enacts Quarantine Order to Reduce Spread of Avian Influenza

  On June 20, 2015, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) published notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin regarding the establishment of an interstate Quarantine Order for all live bird markets and breaker eggs shipped interstate to Pennsylvania.  The order became effective upon publication. 

  Enacted to reduce the potential exposure of Pennsylvania poultry to highly pathogenic avian influenza, the interstate Quarantine Order applies to “live bird markets,” defined as markets that sell live birds for consumers or sell live birds and slaughter them on-premises for customers, and “breaker eggs,” defined as eggs that are cracked and sold in liquid form to be used by wholesale bakers and restaurants.  According to the order, poultry and breaker eggs that originate from states where Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza has been detected are not allowed into the Commonwealth unless the products are properly tested and documented.

  In a press release issued by PDA, Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding stated, “As avian influenza continues to spread eastward, we have increased our monitoring and protocols to safeguard the state’s $13 billion poultry industry.” Additionally, Secretary Redding noted, “[w]ith this order, Pennsylvania’s biosecurity efforts are strengthened without impeding commerce.”

Currently, avian influenza has been confirmed in twenty states.  

Written by Katharine Richter - Research Assistant

June 22, 2015