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Lawsuit filed on use of animal antibiotics

ThinkStock/Jevtic Veterinarian
Legislative Watch: FDA denied in 2021; farm bill hearings; American Beef Labeling Act; Senate Ag Committee; Bronaugh Leaving USDA; USDA nominations.

A coalition of public health advocacy groups has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on its refusal to ban the use of medically important antibiotics for disease prevention in livestock and poultry even when the animals are not sick.

In 2016, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, Public Citizen and others petitioned FDA to ban the use of these antibiotics. FDA denied the petition in 2021.

The coalition in a press release said, "FDA's denial failed to address the petition's core concern that use of medically important antibiotics for so-called disease prevention purposes in livestock and poultry poses a significant threat to human health. The lawsuit filed today explains that FDA failed to adequately consider the evidence and ignored the central problem presented in the 2016 petition."

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Maryland by the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Food Animal Concerns Trust, NRDC and Public Citizen. Earthjustice will serve as co-counsel, along with NRDC.  

Senate Ag schedules farm bill hearings
The Senate Agriculture Committee has scheduled four hearings in preparation for reauthorizing the farm bill this year.  

The first hearing will be on Feb. 1 to review the trade and horticulture titles. The witnesses are Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Moffit and Assistant to the Administration, U.S. Agency for International Development, Sarah Charles.

Future hearings will be held on the farm bill titles concerning commodity programs, conservation, credit, nutrition and forestry.   

American Beef Labeling Act reintroduced in the Senate
Senators John Thune (R-SD), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have reintroduced the American Beef Labeling Act which would reinstate Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling for beef.

The legislation would require the U.S. Trade Representative, in consultation with USDA, to develop a MCOOL program for beef that would be compliant with the World Trade Organization. If USTR fails to reinstate MCOOL within one year of enactment of the legislation, MCOOL would automatically be reinstated for beef.

Earlier this month a coalition of farm, producer, consumer and rural organizations sent a letter to the Senate and House cosponsors of last year's American Beef Labeling Act urging them to reintroduce the measure again this Congress.  

In a letter to the co-sponsors, the coalition said, "This commonsense policy has remained popular with the American people since Congress rescinded country of origin labeling for beef in 2015."

Those signing the letter included: American Grassfed Association, Consumer Federation of America, Farm Aid, Food and Water Watch, National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers Union, R-CALF USA, Organization for Competitive Markets and United States Cattlemen's Association.  

The WTO ruled against the U.S. in a MCOOL case in 2015 saying it was a trade barrier and unfairly discriminates against imported meat.  

Welch and Fetterman join Senate Ag Committee
Senators Peter Welch (D-VT) and John Fetterman (D-PA) have been appointed to the Senate Agriculture Committee. Welch and Fetterman were first elected to the Senate last November.  

Other Democratic members of the committee are Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (MI), Sherrod Brown (OH), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Michael Bennet (CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tina Smith (MN), Dick Durbin (IL), Cory Booker (NJ), Ben Ray Lujan (NM) and Raphael Warnock (GA).  

Republicans have yet to name their committee members.  

Bronaugh Leaving USDA
Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Jewel Bronaugh announced that she will be leaving USDA in the weeks ahead to spend more time with her family. Prior to USDA, Bronaugh served as Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

USDA Nominations: Dean and Schlanger
President Joe Biden has renominated Stacy Dean as USDA's Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, and Margo Schlanger as USDA's Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. Dean currently serves as UDA’' Deputy Under Secretary for FNCS, and Schlanger is a special assistant in the Office of Congressional Relations. Both were nominated last Congress but did not make it through confirmation.  

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