U.S. Department of Agriculture building in Washington, D.C. Getty Images/Mark Wilson

Agriculture ‘patiently’ waiting on Trump to name secretary of agriculture

Legislative Watch: Secretaries of agriculture and veteran affairs remain unnamed; Lighthizer names U.S. Trade Representative; VFD takes effect and FDA announces full antibiotic compliance; new Republicans on ag committee.

With less than two weeks before Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States agriculture is still waiting for who will be the next secretary of agriculture. Trump and his key advisers have been interviewing a number of candidates and considering others.

The agriculture community is hoping a decision will be made soon because there are a number of key issues facing the new secretary including preparation for the new farm bill, child nutrition reauthorization, trade policy, etc. The secretaries of agriculture and veteran affairs are the only cabinet positions that have not been filled.

Lighthizer named U.S. Trade Representative

President-elect Donald Trump announced he will nominate Robert Lighthizer to be the new U.S. Trade Representative. Lighthizer has decades of trade policy and litigation experience and has been a critic of China’s trade policy.

He currently is with the Skadden and Arps law firm where he has been involved in antidumping and countervailing trade cases. Lighthizer served as deputy U.S. Trade Representative during the Reagan administration and also served as Chief of Staff for the Senate Finance Committee.

Trump says, “He has extensive experience striking agreements that protect some of the most important sectors of our economy, and has repeatedly fought in the private sector to prevent bad deals from hurting Americans. He will do an amazing job helping turn around the failed trade policies which have robbed so many Americans of prosperity.”

VFD takes affect

The expanded Veterinary Feed Directive went into effect on Jan. 1. Now all medically important antibiotics intended for use in animal feed will become VFD drugs and must be used under the supervision of licensed veterinarians.

Feed manufacturers will be required to receive a VFD order — a signed and written authorization from a licensed veterinarian to purchase and use VFD antibiotics in animal feed. Over half of antibiotics used in animal agriculture will now require a VFD.

FDA announces full compliance on antibiotics and growth promotion

The Food and Drug Administration announced that it has completed the implementation of Guidance 213 to end the use of antibiotics for growth promotion, and as of Jan. 3 all animal health companies have come into compliance and have agreed to stop the sales of antibiotics for growth promotion.

The FDA says, “The implementation of GFI 213 is a significant milestone in national efforts to address the use of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals. The FDA is committed to ongoing collaboration with key stakeholders to support antimicrobial stewardship. Moving forward, the FDA intends to focus its efforts on such issues as (1) Aligning antimicrobial drug products with the principles of antimicrobial stewardship in veterinary settings; (2) Supporting efforts to foster stewardship of antimicrobials in veterinary settings; and (3) Assessing the impact of strategies intended to curb the emergence of antimicrobial resistance associated with the use of antimicrobial drugs in veterinary settings.”

According to the FDA of the 292 new animal drug applications initially affected by Guidance for Industry 213, 84 were completely withdrawn. Of the remaining 208 applications: 93 applications for oral dosage form products intended for use in water were converted from over-the-counter to prescription status; 115 applications for products intended for use in feed were converted from over-the-counter to veterinary feed directive status; and production (e.g. growth promotion) indications were withdrawn from all (22) applications that included such indications for use.

New Republican members of the Senate Ag Committee

The Senate Republican leadership announced its committee assignments for the 115th Congress. There will be two new Republican Senators on the Senate Agriculture Committee. They are Sens. Steve Daines (MT) and Jeff Sessions (AL). The Sessions appointment may be for a short period of time. If he is confirmed as the next Attorney General, he will then resign from the Senate. Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) left the committee for other assignments. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) will continue as chairman of the committee.

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