The Obama administration’s Food Safety Working Group announced its recommendations to enhance the nation’s food safety system. The recommendations are based on three core principles: prioritizing prevention, strengthening surveillance and enforcement and improving response and recovery. The working group announced specific steps to advance the core principals:
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and USDA are targeting salmonella contamination by developing tougher standards to protect the safety of eggs and poultry (chickens, turkeys).
- To fight the threat of E. coli, USDA is stepping up enforcement in beef facilities and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is developing new industry guidance to improve protections for leafy greens, melons and tomatoes.
- FDA will issue draft guidance on steps the food industry can take to establish product tracing systems to improve national capacity for detecting the origins of foodborne illness.
- USDA will create a new position, chief medical officer, at the Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The Food Safety Working Group was co-chaired by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
Agriculture Appropriations — The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its $124.5 billion fiscal year 2010 agriculture appropriations bill. The bill provides $100.8 billion in mandatory spending (farm program payments, food stamps, etc.) and $23.7 billion in discretionary spending. This represents an increase of $2.3 billion in discretionary spending over fiscal year 2009. The bill makes substantial increases in nutrition, international food assistance and food safety. Key items in the bill include:
- Nutrition/WIC ( WIC is a special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children): $86.092 billion, including mandatory funding for domestic nutrition assistance.
- Child Nutrition: School lunch and breakfast programs are funded at $16.8 billion in mandatory funding.
- Food Safety: Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is funded at $1.018 billion, which is $47 million above last year.
- International Food Aid: Food for Peace and the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program are funded at $1.89 billion, an increase of $564 million.
- Research: USDA research agencies will receive $2.8 billion, an increase of $140 million.
- Animal identification (ID): USDA’s animal ID program is funded at $14 million. This will be a major issue during the House-Senate conference committee since the House bill provides no funding for the program.
- Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD): The bill fully funds MAP ($200 million) and FMD programs ($34.5 million).
The Senate is expected to consider the bill as early as next week. The House of Representatives passed its agriculture appropriations bill this week (see National Hog Farmer Weekly Preview for July 6, 2009 at: nationalhogfarmer.com/0706-senate-tackle-climate-bill 
New Livestock Indemnity Program — USDA announced that beginning July 13, eligible ranchers and livestock producers can begin applying for benefits under the provisions of the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) of the 2008 farm bill. The LIP compensates livestock owners and contract growers for livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather, including losses due to hurricanes, floods, blizzards, disease, wildfires, extreme heat and extreme cold. Eligible losses must have occurred on or after Jan. 1, 2008, and before October 1, 2011. For more information, contact the local Farm Service Agency county office (listings available at: www.fsa.usda.gov .)
Congress Returns — Congress returned this week from its July 4 recess and will be in session until the first week of August. Key issues for this work period will be appropriation bills, health care reform, global climate change, food safety and the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor.
P. Scott Shearer