Skip to content Skip to navigation

Federal News

USDA Farm to School Grants increase local foods

Ag Net | Posted on September 13, 2016

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that up to $5 million in grant funds is available to help schools create or strengthen farm to school programs this school year.  Farm to school programs help form healthy habits and support local economies.  The local foods offered through farm to school programs help school meal programs fulfill the updated school nutrition standards with appealing and diverse offerings.  According to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, schools with robust farm to school programs report reductions in food waste, higher school meal participation rates, and increased willingness of the students to try new foods, notably fruits and vegetables.  In addition, in school year 2013-2014 alone, schools purchased more than $789 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers.  USDA’s Farm to School Grants make these outcomes possible by funding school districts, state and local agencies, Indian tribal organizations,  agricultural producers, and non-profit organizations in their efforts to increase local foods served through child nutrition programs, teach children about food and agriculture through garden and classroom education, and develop schools’ and farmers’ capacities to participate in farm to school. The funds may be used for training, supporting operations, planning, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens, developing partnerships, and implementing farm to school programs.

Appeals court sides with farm groups on CAFO info

Agri-Pulse | Posted on September 13, 2016

EPA violated the Freedom of Information Act by releasing personal information, including phone numbers and email addresses, of the owners of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), a federal appeals court ruled. The unanimous decision by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis is a big victory for the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council, which sued EPA three years ago after it released CAFO information to environmental groups. The court reversed the decision of U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery in Minnesota, who found that AFBF and NPPC had not been able to demonstrate standing on behalf of their members.

Lawsuit fights union access to OSHA inspections | Posted on September 13, 2016

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) safety inspections at workplaces should not facilitate union recruitment of employees at those facilities, a business group argues in a lawsuit filed against the agency late last week in federal court in Dallas.  The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) contends that OSHA’s recent expansion of the “walk-around” right, established by law in 1970 to allow employee representatives to participate in OSHA inspections, is illegal because it has lowered the standards for qualified participants and facilitated union access to open-shop workplaces. NFIB says the expansion, known as the Fairfax Memo, conflicts with Congress’s purpose behind the original walk-around provision, which originally held that an employee representative must be an employee of the employer whose workplace was the subject of the inspection. It also allowed for an OSHA compliance officer to tab third-party specialists (i.e. industrial hygienists and safety engineers) when their presence would be “reasonably necessary.”

FDA provides $21.8 million to states for FSMA produce safety rule implementation

FDA | Posted on September 13, 2016

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced the awarding of a total of $21.8 million to support 42 states to help implement the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) produce safety rule. The rule, which the FDA finalized in November 2015, establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. “As efforts for a nationally integrated food safety system advance, this funding will play a vital role in establishing programs at the state level to educate growers and provide technical assistance to ensure high rates of compliance with the produce safety rule,” said Melinda Plaisier, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs at the FDA. In March 2016, the FDA announced the funding opportunity, which was available to all states and U.S. territories, to begin the planning for and development of a state produce safety program. The cooperative agreement between the FDA and the states provides awardees with the resources to formulate a multi-year plan to implement a produce safety system, develop and provide education, outreach and technical assistance, and develop programs to address the specific and unique needs of the growers in their farming communities. State agencies are important because they have a better understanding and knowledge of the specific growing and harvesting practices in their areas and many have long standing relationships with produce growers and produce associations.

Where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Land on Food and Farming Issues

Modern Farmer | Posted on September 13, 2016

Food and farming are way, way, way down on the list of issues of greatest importance to American voters as they head to the polls this November. Yet agricultural policy is heavily implicated in a number of hot-button voter issues, like healthcare, immigration, and the economy.  At any rate, food production is, arguably, the foundation of society, and voters would do well to understand how each candidate’s policy proposals are likely to affect it. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump are in the habit of speaking on food- and agriculture-related issues, but much can be implied from their stances on other subjects, as well as from their past actions and current personal and political alliances. Trump: Trump’s platform does not specifically mention food, agriculture, or rural communities, and to our knowledge he has never directly addressed the subject of local and regional food systems. But he recently released a list of agriculture advisors that paints a vivid picture of the sort of policies to expect under a President Trump. The 65 names on the list are a who’s who of industrial agriculture advocates, including senators, governors, state ag commissioners, and agribusiness executives. Clinton: Unlike Trump, Clinton’s platform includes a detailed “plan for a vibrant rural America”, which includes “build[ing] a strong local and regional food system by doubling funding for the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Local Food Promotion Program to expand food hubs, farmers markets…and to encourage direct sales to local schools, hospitals, retailers and wholesalers.”

Kansas Senator Calls TPP Trade Deal Crucial – But It's Mired In Presidential Politics

KMUW | Posted on September 12, 2016

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts says the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is crucial for farmers wanting access to new and growing markets. But in the midst of the presidential campaign the deal faces an uphill battle. Speaking on a panel at the Kansas State Fair Saturday, Roberts, who is the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman, distinguished the TPP from other trade deals. He says the agriculture industry stands to benefit too much for it to be allowed to fail. “Every trade agreement I’ve been involved with – I’ve been involved with a lot of them – they’re always over-criticized, but they’re also always over-sold,” Roberts said. “But this particular agreement is absolutely important for us. We have to export our product.”

FDA Seeks Public Input on Next Steps to Help Ensure Judicious Use of Antimicrobials in Animal Agriculture

FDA | Posted on September 12, 2016

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today it is entering the next phase of its efforts to mitigate antimicrobial resistance by focusing for the first time on medically important antimicrobials (i.e., those important for treating human disease) used in animal feed or water that have at least one therapeutic indication without a defined duration of use.  As the agency completes its work to implement changes under Guidance for Industry #213, which will, once fully implemented, limit the use of these drugs to therapeutic-only use under the oversight of a veterinarian, it is now turning its attention to ways to address those antimicrobials that may currently be legally used in food animals for no defined length of time.  Although GFI #213 outlines the FDA’s expectation that any new approvals of medically important antimicrobial drugs administered to animals via feed and water will have a defined amount of time they can be used, the guidance does not address some currently approved therapeutics that lack defined durations of use on their labels. In a notice published today in the Federal Register, the agency requests information from the public about how to establish appropriately targeted durations of use for the approximately 32% of therapeutic products affected by GFI #213 with no defined duration of use in order to foster stewardship of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals and help preserve the effectiveness of these antimicrobials in animal and human medicine

Why U.S. Farm Equipment Exports Are on the Downward Slide

Ag Web | Posted on September 9, 2016

In the first half of 2016, a total of $3.54 billion in U.S.-made agricultural equipment was sold to other countries. That number may sound impressive, but is less so compared with the 12% tumble it has taken in comparison to the same time period last year, according to data from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM).  Not all areas saw a slip, however. The U.S. shipped $933 million worth of farm equipment to Europe so far this year, a 12% improvement from 2015. And Central America also saw a 12% boost. Elsewhere, the news wasn’t as positive. Canada – sales down 17%, Asia – sales down 38%, Australia/Oceania – sales down 26%, South America – sales down 32%, Africa – sales down 17%

Vilsack predicts huge demand for cage-free eggs

Business Record | Posted on September 9, 2016

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted that Iowa firms have an opportunity to make money by manufacturing equipment related to cage-free egg production. Vilsack said McDonald's and other large restaurant chains and other businesses have switched to cage-free eggs, and the demand is stacking up. This cage-free egg thing is going to be huge because all of these companies like McDonald's decided to announce at the same time they are going to use only cage-free eggs. "No one bothered to ask if we have enough cage-free eggs," he said.

The Making of a Farm Bill

Choices magazine | Posted on September 9, 2016

If you work on U.S. agricultural policy in Washington, D.C. for a long enough period, you learn two important rules of thumb. Rule No. 1: once a new farm bill is done, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees will strongly resist any legislative changes to it, claiming it would jeopardize the bill’s delicate balance to ‘re-open it.’ Rule No. 2: as soon as that farm bill is fully implemented—if not sooner—stakeholder groups will start thinking about what changes they might like to be made the next time. Because of the first rule, over time the groups have learned they need to squirrel away their new policy ideas until the Committees commence their consideration of the new farm bill. Typically, that window opens around two years before the existing farm bill expires.  The Agricultural Act of 2014 expires on September 30, 2018. Even though recent farm bills have included between 10 to 15 separate titles, most of the public attention—both positive and negative—has focused on the titles which authorize and fund the programs which make up the farm safety net—the Commodity Title, usually Title I, and the Crop Insurance Title, which is a relatively recent addition to the farm bill pantheon. Stakeholder groups are actively engaged in trying to influence the final outcome of the farm bill debate by offering various proposals, especially for these two titles. - See more at: