Meat and dairy are piling up across the U.S. It has cold storage places packed to the rafters, and the federal government, which subsidizes the agriculture industry, looking for ways to alleviate the problem, at least in the short-term. A combination of factors have led to this: increased production, flat demand despite near-record consumption of milk and cheese and trade issues. And in the long run, it’s unclear whether market forces will get production in line with demand.
States fear the EPA is preparing to override state-level pesticide regulations aimed at curbing crop damage and environmental fallout, after the agency quietly announced last week it’s considering a new way to handle state requests to impose stricter pesticide rules or training requirements.States can seek additional restrictions from the EPA for various reasons, such as accounting for local pests or environmental concerns. But the EPA noted that some requests it gets are to “narrow the federal label.” Rose Kachadoorian, president of the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials, told POLITICO she doesn’t see what problem the agency is trying to address, adding that she believes the existing system is working well.“A lot of these states want to ensure the continued availability of a technology,” she said, stressing that making adjustments would limit states’ rights. “By having the ability to have increased training, cut-off dates and other restrictions, it’s actually enabling states to use that technology and they want to be able to use it.”
The federal government provided additional food-stamp aid to Puerto Rico after the hurricane, but Congress missed the deadline for reauthorization in March as it focused on other issues before leaving for a week-long recess. Federal lawmakers have also been stalled by the Trump administration, which has derided the extra aid as unnecessary. Now, about 43 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents are grappling with a sudden cut to a benefit they rely on for groceries and other essentials.Puerto Rico will again need the federal government’s help to stave off drastic cuts to Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor and disabled, as well as for the disbursement of billions in hurricane relief aid that has not yet been turned over to the island.The island would not need Congress to step in to fund its food-stamp and Medicaid programs if it were a state. For states, the federal government has committed to funding those programs’ needs, whatever the cost and without needing to take a vote. But Puerto Rico instead funds its programs through a block grant from the federal government, which needs to be regularly renewed, and also gives food-stamp benefits about 40 percent smaller than those of states.
The Trump administration is allowing states to enact new Medicaid rules that will curtail benefits and reduce, rather than expand, the number of people eligible for the federal-state health program for the poor. New work requirements have received most of the attention. This year, the administration has granted permission to Arizona and Ohio to impose work requirements of 80 hours a month for most able-bodied adults.Since 2017, at least 15 states have either applied for or received permission to impose work requirements. But the changes go far beyond forcing Medicaid recipients to get jobs.Armed with federal waivers allowing them to deviate from the normal Medicaid rules, states also have forced beneficiaries to pay premiums; “locked out” recipients who miss deadlines; stopped providing rides for medical appointments and eliminated retroactive coverage of new enrollees’ medical bills.Ten states have received or asked for permission to impose premiums. And nine have or are seeking waivers to lock out beneficiaries for not paying premiums on time.
A USDA senior adviser acknowledged “missed opportunities to engage stakeholders” on the department’s plan to move the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture outside the Washington, D.C., area, but said the relocations would benefit both employees and taxpayers. At a hearing held by the House Appropriations Committee’s agriculture subcommittee Wednesday, Kristi Boswell (pictured above) said taxpayers would benefit because USDA would save money on rent by moving to locations outside of Washington, D.C. She also said the lives of ERS and NIFA employees would be improved by shorter commute times and cheaper housing prices.Boswell faced skeptical questions from congressional critics of the proposal. Subcommittee Chairman Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., said he was concerned by the way the proposal has been handled “and the lack of clear, transparent communication with ERS and NIFA employees has already done irreversible damage to the department’s reputation.”
On April 25, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), with participation from the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), will hold a public webinar about genome editing in animals, an innovative and rapidly evolving technology that offers significant public health benefits.While the webinar is open to the public, the content will be focused on information for those using genome editing to develop animals with genomic alterations.The webinar will focus primarily on current scientific evidence, promising uses of this technology in animals, and the potential risks. It will also provide information about CVM’s flexible, risk-based approach to the regulation of intentional genomic alterations (IGAs) in animals, including alterations made with genome editing, and how, if needed, to navigate FDA approval requirements for IGAs that are products of this technology. It will also seek to address common questions associated with FDA oversight. The final portion of the webinar will be dedicated to answering stakeholder-submitted questions.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency announced recently that the January 2019 income over feed cost margin was $7.99 per hundredweight, triggering the first payment for eligible dairy producers who purchase the appropriate level of coverage under the new but yet-to-be established Dairy Margin Coverage program.DMC, which replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy, is a voluntary risk management program for dairy producers that was authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. DMC offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that sign up for DMC will open by mid-June of this year. At the time of sign up, producers who elect a DMC coverage level between $8.00 and $9.50 would be eligible for a payment for January 2019.For example, a dairy operation with an established production history of 3 million pounds (30,000 hundredweight) that elects the $9.50 coverage level for 50 percent of its production could potentially be eligible to receive $1,887.50 for January.
In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted 622 current good manufacturing practice inspections related to the Food Safety Modernization Act. Those inspections were conducted in 47 states, Puerto Rico and four foreign countries – Canada, India, Indonesia and Mexico – that do business in the U.S. and therefore must be in compliance with FSMA. Fifty-eight percent of the inspections took place at feed integrators, 11 percent at pet food facilities, 24 percent at ingredient/rendering facilities, 6 percent at warehouses and 1 percent at food/beverage facilities or other type of facility.Davis said that, as a result of these inspections, 28 Form 483s were issued. According to the FDA, “Form 483 is issued to management at the conclusion of an inspection when an investigator has observed any conditions that, in their judgment, may constitute violations of the Food Drug and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act and related acts.”
Federal inspectors will soon venture onto Oregon farms to ensure compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act for the first time since it became law in 2011. This spring, FDA inspectors are beginning routine on-farm inspections of large operations — those earning more than $500,000 in annual revenue — that grow produce meant to be consumed raw. The agency’s goal is to “educate before and while we regulate” during this initial round of inspections, though officials would take action to stop an imminent threat to public health, said Kate Allen, an FDA investigator. When notified of an upcoming FDA visit, farmers should ask about the extent of the inspection, such as how long it will last and what will be examined, he said. “Try to set some parameters or understand their parameters.”If inspectors take samples of crops or water, growers should ask them to retain portions for future testing or collect their own specimens, Evans said.
NAFTA has been a boon for states like Texas, California and Arizona, where tens of thousands of jobs are directly linked to selling, distributing, warehousing, and transporting Mexican produce throughout the country. It has served as an even bigger job creator for corn growers in Iowa and Nebraska, pork producers in Minnesota and South Dakota, wheat farmers in North Dakota and Kansas, apple and pear growers in Washington and soybean farmers in Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Kansas and, again, Iowa and Nebraska.Recently, however, cross-border trade in agriculture has been put at needless risk by an issue that could turn a win-win situation into a trade war threatening farmers on both sides of the border. At the urging of a small group of tomato growers from Florida the U.S. Commerce Department has preliminarily withdrawn from a 22-year-old Tomato Suspension Agreement that has permitted imports of Mexico’s superior vine-ripe tomatoes while maintaining a minimum U.S. price for that produce. That agreement has worked well and was updated only six years ago. It has also averted a trade war over a longstanding U.S.-Mexico trade issue.