Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, released an oversight plan that identifies federal programs and policies the committee plans to review to determine their effects on agriculture. Items include:
• Review USDA implementation of the 2008 farm bill;
• Assess implementation of energy programs authorized in the 2008 farm bill;
• Review implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard;
• Review the impact of regulatory activities by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its effect on agricultural productivity;
• Review EPA’s jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act and its impact on U.S. agriculture;
• Review the potential of EPA’s Clean Air Act regulatory impact on U.S. agriculture;
• Review of EPA’s regulation of animal feeding operations;
• Review ongoing multilateral, regional and bilateral trade negotiations and their potential impact of U.S. agriculture;
• Review implementation of the Food & Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act;
• Review USDA’s administration of meat and poultry inspection laws;
• Review enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act;
• Assess USDA’s Animal Disease Traceability Plan; and
• Review USDA’s mandatory livestock price reporting system.
House Republicans Propose Cuts for 2011 — The House Republicans released a partial list of 70 spending cuts totaling $74 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2011. It is expected that additional cuts will be announced with the goal of cutting $100 billion from the administration’s FY ’11 budget. The largest proposed cut targets the Environmental Protection Agency at $1.6 billion. Proposed cuts for agriculture include:
• Food Safety and Inspection System, $53 million
• Farm Service Agency, $201 million
• Agriculture Research, $246 million
• Natural Resources Conservation Service, $46 million
• Rural Development Programs, $237 million
• Women, Infant and Children (WIC), $758 million
Congress must pass a continuing resolution by March 4, when the federal government’s funding authority expires.
USDA Seeks Comments on “Downer” Animals — USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is seeking public comments on petitions for rulemaking that were filed by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Farm Sanctuary concerning non-ambulatory animals. HSUS’s petition would amend the federal meat inspection regulations to require that non-ambulatory veal calves be condemned and humanely euthanized. Currently, veal calves that are unable to rise from a lying down position and walk because they are tired or cold can be held for treatment. If they are able to rise and walk after being warmed and rested, they can be slaughtered. The Farm Sanctuary petition would prohibit the slaughter of non-ambulatory disabled pigs, sheep, goats, and other livestock. Comments must be filed by April 8 at www.regulations.gov or mailed to the Docket Clerk, USDA, FSIS, Room 2-2127, George Washington Carver Center, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705.
Follow-up to Competition Workshops — Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the committee, have written Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder asking for a plan regarding the next steps for agriculture competitive issues, now that the Department of Justice/USDA competition workshops are completed. Senator Grassley said, “The agriculture industry has consolidated to the point where family farmers, independent producers and other smaller market participants do not have equal access to fair and competitive markets. Increased concentration in agriculture will lead to fewer product choices and higher product prices for the American consumer.”
Disaster Assistance for Livestock Producers — USDA issued a reminder to livestock producers throughout the Plains states and the Midwest that Farm Service Agency (FSA) programs are available to assist in dealing with harsh winter weather, which is causing harm to livestock and forage. According to FSA, there are a number of programs to help producers recover from livestock deaths that are beyond normal mortality rates, losses of purchased and/or harvested forage, and with the additional costs of providing or transporting feed. These programs include the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP). For livestock death losses to be eligible under LIP, producers must file a notice of loss with their local FSA office within 30 calendar days from when the loss is apparent. Fact sheets on these programs are available at www.fsa.usda.gov.
P. Scott Shearer