The House of Representatives passed H.R. 2749, the “Food Safety Enhancement Act.” The legislation increases the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority to respond to and prevent food contamination. The bill requires the creation of a tracing system that would make it easier to track the source of food-borne disease outbreaks. FDA will inspect all food facilities under its jurisdiction. Those considered the highest risk will be inspected every year. Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, was able to make certain that grain and livestock farms are exempt from FDA inspection. The bill retains current law that USDA has the authority over products, facilities and farms raising animals for meat. Also, the bill does not include any prohibition on the use of antibiotics for livestock and poultry. In a letter to the House Agriculture Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee leadership, the American Sheep Industry, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and National Pork Producers Council said, “America’s livestock and poultry producers support the tightening of language recognizing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s authorities regarding products, facilities and farm-raising animals from which meat and eggs are regulated under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act or the Egg Products Inspection Act.”
Keep Antibiotics Proposal Off Legislation — The Coalition for Animal Health is asking the House of Representatives leadership not to allow H.R. 1549, the “Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act,” to be added to any pending legislation. H.R. 1549 would ban from use in livestock and poultry animal health products that are used to prevent and control diseases. Only animal health products that treat diseases would be allowed. The Coalition said, “Indeed, when Europe removed some uses of antibiotics, the result was devastating to animal health. In response to the increase of disease and death among farm animals, producers had to administer an even greater amount of antibiotics used for the treatment of disease. Veterinary medicine has long employed prevention as the preferred option for dealing with diseases, and antibiotics are an important tool in the prevention toolbox.” Coalition members signing the letter included the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Feed Industry Council, American Horse Council, American Meat Institute, American Sheep Industry Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, Animal Health Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Grain and Feed Association, National Meat Association, National Milk Producers Council, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, United Egg Producers and U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.
Mandatory Meat Recall — Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has introduced legislation giving USDA authority to initiate mandatory recalls for meat products. Senator Udall said, “When the USDA cannot get tainted meat off the market swiftly, all our consumers are at risk. This legislation will give USDA the authority to act quickly and decisively to protect the public. When consumers do not trust that their beef is safe, it hurts ranchers who had nothing to do with tainted beef. Enforcement of health standards isn’t just good for consumers; it’s crucial for New Mexico’s ranchers.” According to former USDA food safety officials, no company has ever refused to recall meat products when USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has made the request of companies.
Farmland Wetlands Program Sign-up — USDA announced that producers can begin signing up for the Farmable Wetlands Program (FWP) on Aug. 3 at their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county office. Authorized incentives include a payment of $100 per acre, an incentive payment of 40% of the cost to establish the practice and a 120% rental rate. FWP is a voluntary program to restore up to one million acres of U.S. farmable wetlands and associated buffers by improving the land’s hydrology and vegetation. Enrollment limitations include 40 acres of wetlands or constructed wetlands, 20 acres for intermittently flooded prairie wetlands and 40 acres per tract for eligible wetlands and buffers. For more information on this program, producers can visit their FSA county office or www.fsa.usda.gov.
USDA Food Safety Advisor — Dr. Adela Ramos has been named senior advisor for food safety at USDA. Prior to joining USDA, Ramos served on the Senate Agriculture Committee dealing with food safety, animal and plant health and biotechnology issues. Ramos has a doctorate from Cornell University and a B.S. from Duke University.
P. Scott Shearer