The Senate officially voted this week to go to conference with the House of Representatives concerning the 2018 farm bill. The Senate leadership appointed nine Senate conferees: Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee; Mitch McConnell (R-KY), majority leader; John Boozman (R-AR); John Hoeven (R-ND); Joni Ernst (R-IA); Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee; Pat Leahy (D-VT); Sherrod Brown (D-OH); and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).
Roberts says, “This strong group of Senate conferees knows how to work together on a bipartisan basis to get the farm bill across the finish line.” He indicates he plans to call a meeting of the farm bill conference committee later this month.
McConnell says he wants a final farm bill ready for President Trump to sign by Sept. 30.
Cell-cultured meat — USDA or FDA jurisdiction
Which federal agency should have jurisdiction over “cell-cultured meat”? This is an issue that is currently being debated in Washington, D.C., with some arguing for USDA to have control and others wanting Food and Drug Administration to be in charge.
A coalition of producer groups, meat industry and farm organizations recently sent a letter to President Trump strongly urging him to have USDA placed in charge of “cell-cultured meat.” The group says, “Cell-cultured protein products that purport to be meat or poultry should be subject to the same comprehensive inspection system that governs other amenable meat and poultry products to ensure they are wholesome and safe for consumption, and to ensure they are labeled and marketed in a manner that provides a level playing field in the marketplace.” They remind Trump that USDA has inspectors on-site daily in meat and poultry plants and USDA approves all product labels to ensure products are what they claim to be to prevent consumers from being misled. The letter was signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Sheep Industry Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation and North American Meat Institute.
The Good Food Institute, in response to the coalition’s letter, says, “The Food and Drug Administration has demonstrated the expertise necessary to provide adequate oversight of clean meat. Additionally, it is clear that FDA will have authority over most or all varieties of clean meat fish. Given that the methods of production will be the same, splitting oversight of the same process between two agencies would be duplicative and costly. So, it makes sense that FDA would regulate clean beef, chicken and pork as well.” The Institute is a non-profit organization that promotes plant-based meat, dairy and egg substitutes.
Last month, the FDA held a public meeting saying they had the expertise to regulate these types of products.
U.S. files WTO cases against trading partners
The United States recently filed separate trade disputes against Canada, China, European Union, Mexico and Turkey at the World Trade Organization challenging their retaliatory measures on U.S. exports. The cases were filed against the five trading partners after each imposed tariffs on U.S. exports in response to the U.S. 25% tariff on steel and 10% tariff on aluminum.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says, “The actions taken by the president are wholly legitimate and fully justified as a matter of U.S. law and international trade rules. Instead of working with us to address a common problem, some of our trading partners have elected to respond with retaliatory tariffs designed to punish American workers, farmers and companies.”
Senate passes fiscal year ’19 ag appropriations
The Senate passed a spending package, which combined the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations for agriculture, transportation-HUD, financial services and interior-environment. The Senate’s agriculture appropriations bill includes approximately $122 billion in mandatory spending, which is $6.1 billion above the administration’s budget request.
The bill also would authorize more than $23 billion in discretionary spending ($20.2 billion for USDA and $3 billion for FDA) which is $225 million greater than the FY ’18 appropriations.