An agreement was reached by the House-Senate agriculture appropriations committee that will allow imports of processed poultry or poultry products from China after USDA notifies Congress that certain conditions have been met. The agreement will allow USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to conduct risk assessments needed to allow imports of cooked Chinese chicken products. USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative worked closely with the conference committee on the agreement. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “We commend the conferees for reaching an agreement that protects food safety and public health in a manner consistent with our international obligations. The agreement reached by the conferees will maintain the safety of our food supply and ensure that America takes a leadership role in supporting a science- and rules-based trading system." U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk added, “The conferees have acted in Americans' best interests in two ways: by insisting on the safety of our food supply, and also by maintaining America's leadership in the rules-based global trading system." The National Pork Producers commented, “We applaud the conferees for finding a path forward that will permit USDA to conduct a science-based risk assessment of Chinese processed poultry. It sends a strong signal to China that the United States abides by its trade obligations and will base decisions about imports on sound science. We expect China to do the same.” Poultry products had become a major trade issue with China.
Agriculture Appropriations Bill Passes Conference — The House-Senate conference committee approved the fiscal year 2010 agriculture appropriations bill. The bill includes $23.3 billion in discretionary funding and $97.83 billion in mandatory funding. Key areas include:
• Nutrition programs – A major emphasis was placed on nutrition programs with $82.72 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding. This includes $58.3 billion for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food assistance to over 36 million low-income people. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program was funded at $7.252 billion. The bill provides funding to help up to 9.6 million women, infants and children with benefits that promote a healthy pregnancy for mothers and a healthy start for children. WIC has been a very successful program. Child nutrition programs are funded at $16.9 billion, targeting schools, child care institutions, adult day care centers and after school care programs.
• Food Safety – Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) receives $1.02 billion.
• Food & Drug Administration (FDA) – $2.36 billion allocated to help FDA improve the safety of domestic and imported food and medical products.
• Foreign Market Development (FMD) – Fully funded at $34.5 million.
• Market Access Program (MAP) – Fully funded at $200 million.
• PL 480 Food for Peace Title II Grants – Funded at $l.69 billion, which is $464 million above last year.
• Conservation Programs – $1 billion for the Natural Resources Conservation Service to improve service in the field, deliver conservation to protect the environment, and upgrade aging dams at risk of catastrophic failure. The bill restores cuts to the Resource Conservation and Development Program and the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program.
• Dairy Assistance – Provides $350 million in assistance to the dairy industry, including $290 million to dairy producers and $60 million to purchase of cheese and other dairy products for food banks.
• COOL – Fully funds the costs to oversee the country-of-origin labeling (COOL) program for fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and other products.
• Animal Identification (ID) – Provides $5.3 million for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The committee noted that USDA has concluded its national listening tour on animal ID and it expects USDA to provide Congress with a complete and detailed strategic plan for the program, including tangible outcomes, measurable goals, specific milestones and the necessary resources for the entire program. The committee warned USDA that if significant progress is not made, Congress will consider eliminating funding for the program.
• Inspection Pilot Program – Prohibits FSIS from implementing a risk-based inspection pilot program until it implements the changes recommended by the USDA Inspector General. Details Sparse in Senate Cap-and-Trade Bill — Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA) have introduced the “Pollution Reduction and Investment Program.” The bill calls for a 20% reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, compared to the 17% cut in the cap-and-trade bill passed by the House. There are few details about how the government would allocate permits worth billions of dollars. The bill does not protect agriculture from indirect land use as does the House version. The National Farmers Union (NFU), which supported the House bill, stated their concerns with the Boxer-Kerry proposal by saying, "Since this debate began nearly two years ago, NFU has been clear in expressing our support for a national, mandatory carbon emission cap-and-trade system if a number of core principles are met: the U.S. Department of Agriculture is granted control and administration of the agriculture offset program; early actors are recognized; no artificial cap is placed on domestic offsets; carbon sequestration rates are based upon science; and, producers are permitted to stack environmental benefit credits. The draft Boxer-Kerry language fails to address these provisions.” With the Senate consumed with the health care debate, it is unlikely they will consider cap-and-trade until next year.
Groups Want CAFOs Regulated for Air Pollution — Animal rights and environmental groups joined to file a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking to regulate air pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The group is led by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which stated, “This petition quite simply tries to place CAFOs under the same regulatory framework that other large polluters are under.” They estimated that “only 100-200 of the largest farms” are targeted for regulation in the petition.
P. Scott Shearer