Public Meetings, Congressional Hearings, Calls for Comments

FOOD & AGRICULTURE

  • Chairman Pat Roberts of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, held the first hearing of his chairmanship and broke with tradition by first hearing the concerns of farmers and ranchers on the implementation of the Farm Bill followed by the testimony of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. Read more
  • View Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow's opening statement at the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing entitled "The Agricultural Act of 2014 - Implementation after One Year and Farm Credit Administration Nominees." Read more
  • The House Committee on Agriculture began a full-scale review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Committee heard from University of Maryland welfare scholar Doug Besharov on the past, present, and future of the nation's largest program in the domestic hunger safety net. View Chairman Conaway's opening statement at the Agriculture Committee's hearing on SNAP. 
  • Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Chairman of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, released the following statement after Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack testified before the Subcommittee. Read more
  • While appearing before the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Secretary Tom Vilsack said USDA will work to introduce labels for mechanically tenderized beef within the next two years.Read more
  • Chairwoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) convened her first Subcommittee on Nutrition hearing. The committee met to further examine the role of SNAP in relation to other federal assistance programs in a hearing titled, "SNAP Recipient Characteristics and Dynamics". Read more
  • Ranking Member Stabenow applauded the USDA for proposing new rules that expand risk management tools to specialty crop and underserved producers currently unable to find or afford insurance coverage. Read more
  • Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH) joined Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) in introducing the Farm to School Act of 2015, legislation to expand the USDA's highly successful Farm to School grant program.  Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) introduced identical legislation in the U.S. Senate. Read more
  • Senator Charles Schumer  urged the USDA to expedite its review and approval of a design and construction project that has the potential to transform Wyoming County's farming and dairy industry. Read more
  • Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) urged the USDA to establish strong pathogen standards for pork and beef products. Read more
  • The three federal agencies (FDA, CDC, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service) involved in the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) released details of their new method for estimating the sources of Salmonella, E. coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter. Read more
  • Hershey is the latest company to announce a switch to non-GMO ingredients.  The company announced it intends to remove genetically-modified ingredients from its Milk Chocolate and Kisses by the end of 2015. Read more
  • Deere & Co. cut its profit forecast for the year and reported declining first quarter earnings, as it continues to grapple with a U.S. farming downturn that has translated into lower demand for its equipment. Read more
  • A Missouri state legislator wants to give people the right to sell farm-produced products directly to the consumer without any interference from state or local regulatory agencies. Read more
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $20 million is being made available to improve wildlife habitat and enhance public access for recreational opportunities on privately held and operated farm, ranch and forest lands. Read more
  • USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced nearly $14 million in grants to support four programs to increase prosperity in rural America through research, education, and extension programs focused on promoting rural community development, economic growth, and sustainability. Read more
  • In conjunction with a series of Made in Rural America Executive Actions announced by President Obama and the White House, the USDA released data showing the opportunities for agriculture of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to help boost agricultural exports across the 50 United States. Read more
  • Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of up to $8.7 million in funding for bioenergy research and education efforts as well as publishing the final rule for a program that provides incentives for farmers and forest landowners interested in growing and harvesting biomass for renewable energy. Read more
  • Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA is accepting public comments on its interim final rule for the new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), designed to help producers protect working agricultural lands and wetlands. The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated three previous conservation easement programs into ACEP to make it easier for diverse agricultural landowners to fully benefit from conservation initiatives. Read more
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that a one-time extension will be provided to producers for the new safety-net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill, known as Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). The final day to update yield history or reallocate base acres has been extended one additional month, from Feb. 27, 2015 until March 31, 2015. The final day for farm owners and producers to choose ARC or PLC coverage also remains March 31, 2015. Read more

TRADE QUICK READ 

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

  • U.S. negotiators have made "significant progress" on agricultural and automotive market access in Japan and there is "a real urgency... to get this deal done" among partner nations, according to Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler.
  • Lawmakers from Virginia and North Carolina are calling on United States Trade Representative Michael Froman to treat tobacco and tobacco products like any other legal product in the negotiations.
  • Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen indicated her opposition to including currency manipulation regulation in TPP at a hearing this week.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

  • EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan characterized European aversion to biotechnology like GMOs as "political" and not based in science.
  • The National Pork Producer Council indicated that securing market access in Europe will be more difficult than in Asia.

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)

  • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the committee's ranking member, continue to negotiate the contents of a TPA bill. Sen. Wyden is pushing Chairman Hatch to include transparency provisions in the legislation, though disagreements led to the postponement of a trade hearing scheduled for Friday.
  • Americans for Limited Government, a conservative group, along with the AFL-CIO, are ramping up efforts to oppose TPA. At the same time, business groups like the Chamber of Commerce are pushing for congressional approval of the pending legislation.
  • The Obama Administration is continuing to lobby Congress in support of TPA, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the bill's passage a "very close call."

Cuba

  • The second round of diplomatic talks between Cuba and the United States are set to begin this Friday in Washington, D.C., with both sides aiming to establish embassies quickly.

West Coast Port Dispute

  • After Labor Secretary Tom Perez brokered a five-year deal between both sides, the dispute has ended, averting the possibility of a shutdown of the 29 ports.

TRADE AND INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURE

  • A trio of House and Senate lawmakers unveiled legislation that would help workers who lose their jobs because of global trade. Read more
  • A bipartisan group of former U.S. Agriculture Secretaries, representing all past Administrations from those of President Jimmy Carter to President George W. Bush,  issued the following open letter urging Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority. The former secretaries note that boosting trade and exports is highly beneficial to America's agriculture economy and that Trade Promotion Authority-which has been given to all previous presidents since Gerald Ford (with similar authority granted to all presidents since Franklin Delano Roosevelt)-is critical for successfully negotiating new trade partnerships that boost exports and create jobs. Read more
  • European Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan pledged on Sunday to take steps to support pork prices in an effort to help the industry as it reels from a Russian import ban. Read more
  • On a fenced plot not far from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home, a field of mustard is in full yellow bloom, representing his government's reversal of an effective ban on field trials of genetically modified (GM) food crops. Read more
  • The world's diet has deteriorated substantially in the last two decades, a leading nutrition expert said on Monday, citing one of the largest studies available on international eating habits. Read more
  • Hindu Nationalist in India have stepped up attacks on the country's beef industry, seizing trucks with cattle bound for abattoirs and blockading meat processing plants in a bid to halt the trade in the world's second-biggest exporter. Read more
  • China has agreed to lift its ban on Irish beef, Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny said last Friday, making it the only European country to be allowed to export beef to both the United States and China. Read more
  • Japan's farm minister resigned on Monday amid questions over his political fundraising, stepping down at a time the government is tackling issues such as agriculture reform and talks on a broad Pacific trade agreement. Read more
  • Ukraine has sent a small prepayment of $15 million to Russia for March natural gas deliveries, energy officials from the two sides said on Friday, after Moscow threatened to cut off supply. Read more

USDA REPORTS

WHITE HOUSE

  • President Obama on Tuesday vetoed legislation authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, rebuffing the new Republican Congress amid a furious battle over Homeland Security funding. Read more
  • The Justice Department on Monday filed legal action to allow President Obama's immigration actions to go forward. Read more
  • The White House on Wednesday said a bill under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives to revise the federal No Child Left Behind education law would face a veto from President Obama if it reached his desk. Read more

CONGRESS 

  • The Senate on Friday passed a "clean" bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), less than a day before the department was poised to run out of money. Read more
  • House GOP plans to approve short-term funding for the Department of Homeland Security appeared to be in deep trouble at midday on  Friday. Read more
  • Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) will run for Senate in 2016, setting up a heavyweight fight with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Read more

BUDGET, ECONOMY & FINANCE

  • Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) introduced legislation Wednesday to delay regulations - championed by President Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) - that would crack down on financial advisers.  Read more
  • Sales of new homes fell on slightly in January as severe winter weather lashed most of the country. Read more
  • Republicans on the House and Senate Budget committees have picked Keith Hall to be the next director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Read more

FOREIGN AFFAIRS & DEFENSE

  • Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee are urging the head of the chamber's Budget panel to boost defense spending by over $50 billion. Read more
  • Obama administration officials testifying on Capitol Hill this week failed to provide a single compelling answer to the question that looms over their request for an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Read more

HEALTH CARE 

  • The Senate's chief referee has dealt a significant setback to conservatives who want to send an ObamaCare repeal bill to the president's desk this year. Read more
  • More than half of the nearly 9 million people who enrolled in ObamaCare coverage through the federal website were new customers, the administration said Wednesday, touting the number to show the vibrancy of the law. Read more
  • Republicans are accusing a key ObamaCare official of refusing to provide Congress with enrollment data that one lawmaker said has already been provided to the White House and insurance companies. Read more

MEETINGS

February 26, 2015
COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION
Position Limits for Derivatives and Aggregation of Positions
SUMMARY: The Commission's Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee has scheduled a public meeting to be held on February 26, 2015, which will consider, among other matters, exemptions for bona fide hedging positions.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-25/html/2015-03834.htm

March 16, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Codex Alimentarius Commission: Meeting of the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR) 
SUMMARY: The Office of the Under Secretary for Food Safety, USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and the EPA are sponsoring a public meeting on March 16, 2015. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-24/html/2015-03732.htm 
April 7-May 5, 2015
INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION 
Trade and Investment Policies in India, 2014-2015 
SUMMARY: The Commission has rescheduled the public hearing in this investigation from April 7, 2015 to May 5, 2015, in order to allow interested parties to access more recent information in preparing their testimony and pre-hearing briefs and statements.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-26/html/2015-03853.htm 

April 8, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Announcement of the Availability of the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, Solicitation of Written Comments on the Advisory Report, and Invitation for Oral Testimony at a Public Meeting  
SUMMARY: HHS and USDA (a) announce the availability of the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (Advisory Report); (b) solicit written comments on the Advisory Report; and (c) provide notice of a public meeting to solicit oral comments from the public on the Advisory Report.  
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-23/html/2015-03552.htm 

FOOD SAFETY

February 17, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Document Reviews of Foreign Food Regulatory Systems: New Web- based Self-Reporting Tool 
SUMMARY: FSIS is making available to the public its new Web-based Self- Reporting Tool (SRT) that it will be sending to foreign countries to report information on their food regulatory systems for the purpose of establishing that the systems are, or continue to be, equivalent to that of the United States' system. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-23/html/2015-03576.htm 

February 27, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza; Technical Amendment 
SUMMARY: In a final rule published in the Federal Register on December 1, 2014, and effective on that date, we adopted, with changes, an interim rule that amended the regulations concerning the importation of live birds and poultry (including hatching eggs) and bird and poultry products from regions where any subtype of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is considered to exist. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-27/html/2015-04147.htm 

March 26, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 
Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration Advice About Eating Fish; Closure of the Public Comment Period 
SUMMARY: On June 11, 2014, the FDA, in coordination with the EPA, released for public comment draft fish consumption advice entitled "Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know.'' 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-24/html/2015-03691.htm 

March 30, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Cattle Fever Tick; Importation Requirements for Ruminants From Mexico  
SUMMARY: We are amending the regulations to recognize the State of Sonora as a region in Mexico that is free of fever ticks. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-26/html/2015-04074.htm 

April 27, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Exportation of Live Animals, Hatching Eggs, and Animal Germplasm From the United States  
SUMMARY: We are proposing to revise the regulations pertaining to the exportation of livestock from the United States. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-26/html/2015-04013.htm 

April 28, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Agricultural Bioterrorism Protection Act of 2002; Biennial Review and Republication of the Select Agent and Toxin List SUMMARY: In accordance with the Agricultural Bioterrorism Protection Act of 2002, we are soliciting public comment regarding the list of select agents and toxins that have the potential to pose a severe threat to animal or plant health, or to animal or plant products. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-27/html/2015-04180.htm 

May 28, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Notice of Availability of a Treatment Evaluation Document; Methyl Bromide Fumigation of Figs  
SUMMARY: We are advising the public that we have determined that it is necessary to immediately add to the Plant Protection and Quarantine Treatment Manual a new treatment schedule for methyl bromide fumigation of figs for external pests, including Chilean false red mite.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-27/html/2015-04172.htm 

MARKETING

February 23, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Plant Variety Protection Board; Renewal of the Plant Variety Protection Board Charter   
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) (5 U.S.C. App.), this notice announces that the Secretary of Agriculture intends to renew the Plant Variety Protection Board (PVP Board).
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-27/html/2015-04086.htm 

March 10-11, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee  
SUMMARY: Pursuant to the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is announcing a meeting of the Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee (Committee). 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-26/html/2015-04022.htm 

OTHER ITEMS

February 6, 2015
INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION 
Commodity Matchbooks From India; Scheduling of Expedited Five- year Reviews 
SUMMARY: The Commission hereby gives notice of the scheduling of expedited reviews pursuant to section 751(c)(3) of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1675(c)(3)) (the Act) to determine whether revocation of the antidumping duty and countervailing duty orders on commodity matchbooks from India would be likely to lead to continuation or recurrence of material injury within a reasonably foreseeable time. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-23/html/2015-03560.htm 

February 11, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Office of the Secretary Reestablishment of the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture 
SUMMARY: The Secretary of Agriculture intends to reestablish the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) for a two-year period.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-27/html/2015-04107.htm 

February 23, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR 
Employment and Training Administration Labor Certification Process for the Temporary Employment of Aliens in Agriculture in the United States: 2015 Allowable Charges for Agricultural Workers' Meals and Travel Subsistence Reimbursement, Including Lodging 
SUMMARY: The Employment and Training Administration of the Department of Labor is issuing this Notice to announce (1) the allowable charges for 2015 that employers seeking H-2A workers may charge their workers when the employer provides three meals a day, and (2) the maximum travel subsistence meal reimbursement that a worker with receipts may claim in 2015. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-23/html/2015-03596.htm 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY  
Fomesafen; Pesticide Tolerance   
SUMMARY: This regulation establishes a tolerance for residues of fomesafen in or on watermelon. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-23/html/2015-03575.htm 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY  
Temporary Exemption From the Requirement of a Tolerance SUMMARY: This regulation establishes a temporary exemption from the requirement of a tolerance for residues of the VNT1 protein in potato when used as a plant-incorporated protectant in accordance with the terms of Experimental Use Permit (EUP) No. 8917-EUP-2. J.R
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-23/html/2015-03570.htm  

February 25, 2015
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Clothianidin; Pesticide Tolerances for Emergency Exemptions 
SUMMARY: This regulation establishes a time-limited tolerance for residues of clothianidin, (E)-N-[(2-chloro-5-thiazolyl)methyl]-N'- methyl-N''-nitroguanidine, in or on fruit, citrus, group 10-10. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-25/html/2015-03928.htm 

February 27, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program  
SUMMARY: The Agricultural Act of 2014 consolidates the purposes of the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) into one easement program called the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-27/html/2015-03781.htm 

March 26, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Rural Development Regulations--Update to FmHA References and to Census References  
SUMMARY: Rural Development (RD) is amending its regulations by updating references to the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) and clarifying and updating references to the census data. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-24/html/2015-01571.htm 

March 28, 2015
FARM CREDIT ADMINISTRATION  
Disclosure to Shareholders; Pension Benefit Disclosures 
SUMMARY: The Farm Credit Administration amends our regulations related to Farm Credit System bank and association disclosures to shareholders and investors of senior officer compensation in the Summary Compensation Table.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-26/html/2015-04023.htm 

April 17, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Food and Nutrition Service Request for Information: Software Vendors of State and Local Management Information Systems (MIS) and Other Technology Solutions for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs   
SUMMARY: This is a request for information from Management Information Systems (MIS) software and hardware vendors and developers to learn about the functionality of State and School Food Authority National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program (NSLP/SBP) data management information systems.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-25/html/2015-03848.htm 

April 28, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration Request for Extension and Revision of a Currently Approved Information Collection 
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35), this notice announces our intention to request a 3- year extension and revision of a currently approved information collection for "Export Inspection and Weighing Waiver for High Quality Specialty Grain Transported in Containers.''
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-27/html/2015-04200.htm 

May 27, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Biomass Crop Assistance Program  
SUMMARY: The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is amending the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) regulations to implement changes required by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill). 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-02-27/html/2015-04092.htm 

Call for Comments

IFT calls for comments on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  For details please refer to http://www.ift.org/public-policy-and-regulations/advocacy/ift-comments/call-for-comments.aspx.