Dr. Joshua Sharfstein of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in testimony before the House Rules Committee announced that FDA supports “ending the use of antibiotics for growth and feed efficiency in the United States.” Sharfstein also stated that FDA believes all medications used in animal agriculture should be “under the supervision of a veterinarian.” This is a major change in policy by the FDA. The House Rules Committee hearing was regarding H.R. 1549, the “Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009,” which would ban the use of antibiotics for livestock except when the animal is sick. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), chairwoman of the committee and sponsor of H.R. 1549, said, “When we go to the grocery store to pick up dinner, we should be able to buy our food without worrying that eating it will expose our family to potentially deadly bacteria that will no longer respond to our medical treatments. Unless we act now, we will unwittingly be permitting animals to serve as incubators for resistant bacteria.” The witnesses who endorsed the bill included the Pew Environment Group, Union of Concerned Scientists, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Bon Appétit, and the Center for Metagenomics and Human Health. Last year Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-IA) presented testimony on the House Agriculture Committee’s review of this issue. Boswell stated: “All antibiotics used to keep animals healthy have passed the in-depth FDA process, and have been shown to be safe and effective and have undergone review of their potential to cause increased antibiotic resistance.” Boswell also told the committee that if H.R. 1549 is enacted and products are removed from use, “livestock producers will be left with few, if any, medicines to prevent and control animal disease.”
Phase Out Ethanol Support — Congressmen Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) have introduced legislation that would phase-out government support for corn-based ethanol over a five-year period. The “Affordable Food and Fuel for America Act” would phase out the tariff on imported ethanol and the blenders’ tax credit.
U.S. Ag Trade Still Positive — The latest USDA report shows that U.S. agriculture continues to have a trade surplus with the rest of the world. For the fiscal year, to date, U.S. agricultural exports are at $66.874 billion compared to imports of $50.641 billion for a surplus of $16.234 billion. This compares to a surplus of $24.252 billion a year ago.
New FSA Administrator — Jonathan Coppes has been named the new administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Prior to joining USDA, Coppes served as legislative assistant for agriculture, energy and environment to Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE). Coppes is originally from Ohio.
P. Scott Shearer