Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chairwoman of the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee, has called for an independent science board to review USDA’s meat and poultry inspection system in reaction to the recent recall of approximately 864,000 lb. of beef contaminated with E. coli. DeLauro said, “Contaminated meat products continue to enter our food supply at a disturbing rate. And, as recalls like this attest, it is time for the meat and poultry inspection system at USDA to be subject to a comprehensive review by an external, independent science board to ensure that the current system is adequately protecting the public health. Such a board would support and advise USDA, ensure that the inspection process is rigorous and scientifically robust, and recommend changes to any practices that are insufficiently protecting our food supply.”
Russian Trade Issues Mount — Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), ranking member of the committee, are urging President Barack Obama to use all of the administration’s resources to address Russia’s recent decision to restrict U.S. agricultural imports, especially pork, poultry and beef. The senators said in a letter to the president: “While the actions against our exports have taken different forms, they all erect non-scientific barriers to trade. First, if left unchallenged they would have the effect of keeping U.S. products almost entirely out of Russian markets. Second, while the Russian government’s varied justifications centered on sanitary measures, analyses or guidelines of international agencies, such as the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) or the Codex Alimentarius, do not support Russia’s conclusions.” A U.S. government delegation is scheduled to meet with Russian officials in Moscow in the near future.
CBS & Antibiotics — Next week, CBS Evening News is expected to present a story on antibiotic use in livestock and poultry production. CBS has been to Missouri, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Denmark for the story. The report will focus on antibiotic use in pork and poultry production. Following the story, congressional proponents to ban antibiotic use in livestock are likely to call on Congress to address the issue this year.
Fix Taiwan Beef Problem — The House Ways and Means Committee leadership expressed frustration with Taiwan’s recent decision to limit the U.S. beef products accepted in the country. The action reverses the agreement reached between the United States and Taiwan last October. In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the members said, “The Jan. 5, 2010 vote of Legislative Yuan will not only have a significant effect on exports of U.S. beef and beef products to Taiwan, it has broader implications for U.S.-Taiwan trade relations.” The members commended the administration for suspending talks with Taiwan under the U.S.-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and believe these talks should not move forward until the beef issue is resolved. Signing the letter were Congressmen Charlie Rangel (D-NY), chairman of the committee; Dave Camp (R-MI), ranking member of the committee, Sander Levin (D-MI), chairman of the trade subcommittee, and Kevin Brady (R-TX), ranking member of the trade subcommittee.
Massachusetts Shocker — Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race has sent shock waves through Washington, DC. Independent voters were key to Brown’s victory. Brown’s win now gives the Republicans 41 seats in the Senate, thus denying the Democrats the necessary 60 votes to stop filibusters. This has huge ramifications for the legislative agenda for this year, especially with health care reform and climate change. This Republican win will put more Senate seats in play for the November election.
State of the Union — President Barack Obama will give his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday, Jan. 27. The address will outline the president’s priorities and goals for the coming year. After the results of the Massachusetts Senate election, there is real interest in what the president will present as his legislative agenda.
P. Scott Shearer