Public Meetings, Congressional Hearings, Calls for Comments

Senate Closer to Final Vote on Trade Promotion Authority

The Senate convened Friday morning to continue consideration of Trade Promotion Authority in advance of the planned legislative recess next week.  As of the time of writing this, the Senate had not yet voted on a substitute amendment containing trade language which would trigger the ability for the chamber to move on to a procedural vote to close debate on the bill.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a press release Friday morning noting, "My hope is that, with some cooperation from across the aisle, we can vote on some amendments today and complete our work on this trade legislation."

This week the Senate voted on two amendments to the TPA bill, approving the ability to direct trade negotiators to consider conditions of religious freedom in potential free trade partners and rejecting an amendment to boost funding for the Trade Adjustment Assistance programs for workers who have lost their job as a result of trade deals.  Republicans and Democrats will have to agree on scheduling votes on a number of amendments to speed up final approval of TPA.  The Senate crossed a procedural hurdle on Thursday by agreeing to proceed to a list of pending amendments.  Once all amendments are disposed of, the Senate can turn to the substantive vote on passage of TPA. 

The TPA bill would establish the fast-track process for approving new trade agreements.  In a speech on the Senate floor yesterday addressing the procedural delays, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) noted, "I said at the beginning of this debate that this was, quite possibly, the most important debate we'll have in Congress this year.  It is President Obama's top legislative priority.  It is a very high priority for many of us in Congress.  And, on the substance, this is a good TPA bill, one that Senators from both parties can support.  It needs to pass."

If the Senate passes TPA before the recess, leaders in the House of Representatives are reported to schedule a vote on the trade bill during the first week of June.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Holds Hearing on U.S.-Cuban Relations

This week the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations heard from the State Department's Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson and the Counselor of the State Department, Ambassador Thomas Shannon, on the strategy behind the President's significant shift in U.S. policy towards Cuba.

The witnesses spoke to how our nation can best engage strategically with the region and beyond to help Cuba rejoin the mainstream of the Americas and offer its citizens the same rights and freedoms enjoyed by citizens of other countries in the region.

The purpose of the hearing was to help legislators understand the administration's policy goals with regard to Cuba, including the intention behind restoring full diplomatic relations and relaxing sanctions and any insight into the Cuban government's goals for engaging in this diplomatic process with the United States.

In his opening statement, Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), stated, "Cuba has been left behind politically and economically; a far cry from a time decades ago when it was among the most prosperous countries in the region.  The administration's Cuba policy initiative has been welcomed in Latin America and the Caribbean. But significant differences of opinion exist in the United States over the extent to which this change in policy will advance U.S. interests and improve circumstances for the Cuban people."

Rep. DeLauro Introduces Bill on Arsenic Limit for Rice

This week, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced a bill that would establish limits on the quantity of inorganic arsenic in rice and rice products for the purpose of protecting the public health.

"High levels of inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, can be found in rice, cereal and other common, everyday foods," said DeLauro in a statement. "The federal government needs to step in to make sure that American families are consuming food that is safe." Consumer Reports said its recent study "found concerning levels of inorganic arsenic in a variety of rice and rice products."

The Reducing food-based Inorganic Compounds Exposure Act, or RICE Act, directs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to promulgate regulations establishing the minimum quantity of inorganic arsenic contained in rice or a rice product that causes rice to be deemed "adulterated".  The minimum quantity would apply to rice containing inorganic arsenic regardless of whether the arsenic is present as a result of a natural process, an ingredient added to a food, the use of a pesticide, or other means.  The bill would also require the Comptroller General of the United States to submit a report to Congress that analyzes the agronomy and production management practices that will reduce inorganic arsenic in rice; the germplasm analysis and breeding that may reduce inorganic arsenic in rice; the analytic technology improvements needed to address the issue of inorganic arsenic in rice; and the current efforts of Federal agencies to reduce inorganic arsenic in the food supply, among other things.

In late 2013, FDA scientists determined in their analysis of approximately 1,300 samples of rice that the levels of inorganic arsenic found in the samples were too low to cause immediate health damage.

FOOD & AGRICULTURE 

  • On Tuesday, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway introduced H.R. 2393, a "bill that will effectively repeal country of origin labeling requirements for beef, pork, and chicken, while leaving intact the requirements for all other covered commodities" which was then approved on Wednesday by the Committee. House Agriculture Committee
  • View Chairman Conaway's commentary in Roll Call regarding COOL. Roll Call
  • View Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts statement on the WTO COOL ruling. Senate Agriculture Committee
  • View House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Chairman Todd Rokita's statement on Tuesday's hearing to address "Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Federal Child Nutrition Programs" as well as the press release from the Committee. House Education and Workforce Committee 
  • The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition held a hearing on Wednesday examining the 'past, present and future of SNAP.' House Agriculture Committee
  • The House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday approved the National Forest Foundation Reauthorization Act of 2015. House Agriculture Committee
  • On Thursday, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed the "U.S. Grains Standards Act Reauthorization Act of 2015." Senate Agriculture Committee
  • Senator Lamar Alexander along with thirty-one additional Senators sent a letter urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "to provide clarity to businesses before requiring compliance with its final rule requiring chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments to provide nutrition information on all standard menu items." Senator Lamar Alexander
  • The School Meal Nutrition Act was introduced on Tuesday by Representatives G.T. Thompson (R-PA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT). Rep. Thompson noted, ""The School Milk Nutrition Act of 2015 seeks to reverse the decline of milk consumption in schools throughout Pennsylvania and across the country." Representative Glenn Thompson
  • After the recent Blue Bell recall, the company has announced layoffs. Dallas News
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest approximately $21 million in additional Farm Bill dollars to help farmers and ranchers apply science-based solutions to mitigate the short and long term effects of drought. These investments will focus financial and technical assistance in the most severely drought-stricken areas in eight states to help crop and livestock producers apply conservation practices that increase irrigation efficiency, improve soil health and productivity, and ensure reliable water sources for livestock operations. USDA
  • Leaders from 34 countries gathered in Memphis for the 10th Annual Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Rural Development Conference to discuss international strategies to address rural development in the 21st century, including creating jobs, building infrastructure, expanding access to health care, and making diversified rural investments. USDA
  • On May 20, 2015, Secretary Vilsack spoke with delegations from 34 countries as part of the 10th Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Conference, held in Memphis, TN. In his remarks, the Secretary reaffirmed his vision for comprehensive and long lasting regional economic development. USDA
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA's plan to implement a Farm Bill provision that will have a major policy impact on the way the Department helps rural communities plan and finance regional economic development strategies. The new Regional Development Priority (RDP) policy will make it easier for rural communities to access resources to invest in long-term community development efforts by giving priority to applications for Rural Development programs that include regional partnerships and strategies. USDA
  • U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Deputy Secretary-General Mari Kiviniemi released a joint statement outlining three major themes guiding rural economic development policies. USDA
  • The USDA reminds farmers to file a Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form (AD-1026) with their local USDA Service Center by June 1, 2015. USDA
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA is accepting applications for its Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program, which provides increased access to education, training and health care resources in rural areas. USDA

USDA REPORTS

WHITE HOUSE

  • The Obama Administration will provide Tunisia with a new ally status. Politico
  • On Monday, the Obama Administration announced limits on federal programs that provide military type equipment to local police. The Hill
  • On Friday, President Obama announced that his name will be on the Iran deal. The Hill

CONGRESS

  • Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) took to the Senate floor on Wednesday evening to filibuster. The Hill
  • View the Politico article entitled "Patriot Act in jeapordy as House skips town."
  • On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the 21st Century Cures Act. The Hill

MEETINGS

June 10, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  

National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods  
SUMMARY: This notice is announcing a meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF), that will be held on June 10, 2015, by audio conference call that is open to the public.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-20/html/2015-12192.htm 

FOOD SAFETY

July 17, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Notice of Request for a New Information Collection: Certificates of Medical Examination
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is announcing its intention to collect certificates of medical examination to determine whether or not an applicant for an FSIS Food Inspector, Consumer Safety Inspector, or Veterinary Medical Officer in-plant position meets the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approved medical qualification standards.  
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-18/html/2015-11997.htm 

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Notice of Request To Extend a Currently Approved Information Collection: (Requirements for Official Establishments To Notify FSIS of Adulterated or Misbranded Product, Prepare and Maintain Written Recall Procedures, and Document Certain HACCP Plan Reassessments) 
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is announcing its intention to extend the approved information collection regarding requirements for official establishments to notify FSIS of adulterated or misbranded product, prepare and maintain written recall procedures, and document certain HACCP plan reassessments.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-18/html/2015-11999.htm 

July 20, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Food and Nutrition Service Agency Information Collection Activities: Proposed Collection; Comment Request--Evaluation of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training (E&T) Pilots  
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, this notice invites the public and other public agencies to comment on this proposed information collection. This is a new collection for the purpose of evaluating the Fiscal Year 2015 Pilot Projects to Reduce Dependency and Increase Work Requirements and Work Effort Under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-20/html/2015-12205.htm 

September 30, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 
Cooperative Agreement to International Council for Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use  
SUMMARY: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is announcing the availability of grant funds for the support of the International Council for Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH).
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-18/html/2015-11847.htm 

May 17, 2016
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Descriptive Designation for Needle- or Blade-Tenderized (Mechanically Tenderized) Beef Products  
SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is amending the Federal meat inspection regulations to require the use of the descriptive designation "mechanically tenderized,'' "blade tenderized,'' or "needle tenderized'' on the labels of raw or partially cooked needle- or blade-tenderized beef products, including beef products injected with a marinade or solution, unless the products are to be fully cooked or to receive another full lethality treatment at an official establishment.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-18/html/2015-11916.htm 

OTHER ITEMS

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES TRADE REPRESENTATIVE
Dispute Settlement Proceeding Regarding Certain Measures Providing Export-Contingent Subsidies to Enterprises in Several Industrial Sectors in China; Correction  
SUMMARY: On Tuesday, May 12, 2015, the Office of the United States Trade Representative published a notice titled WTO Dispute Settlement Proceeding Regarding Certain Measures Providing Export-Contingent Subsidies to Enterprises in Several Industrial Sectors in China. Subsequent to the publication of that notice, USTR discovered an error in the published notice. This notice corrects that error. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-21/html/2015-12279.htm 

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Agency Information Collection Activities; Announcement of Office of Management and Budget Approval; Infant Formula Requirements  
SUMMARY: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is announcing that a collection of information entitled, "Infant Formula Requirements'' has been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-18/html/2015-11821.htm 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY  
Notification of Submission to the Secretary of Agriculture; Pesticides; Agricultural Worker Protection Standard Revisions 
SUMMARY: This document notifies the public as required by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that the EPA Administrator has forwarded to the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) a draft regulatory document concerning Pesticides; Agricultural Worker Protection Standard Revisions.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-20/html/2015-11962.htm 

May 18, 2015 
COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION  
Forward Contracts With Embedded Volumetric Optionality 
SUMMARY: In accordance with section 712(d)(4) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission, after consultation with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, are jointly issuing the CFTC's clarification of its interpretation concerning forward contracts with embedded volumetric optionality.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-18/html/2015-11946.htm 

May 20, 2015
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY  
Trinexapac-ethyl; Pesticide Tolerances  
SUMMARY: This regulation establishes tolerances for residues of trinexapac-ethyl in or on multiple commodities which are identified and discussed later in this document.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-20/html/2015-11972.htm 

May 27, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Biomass Crop Assistance Program  
SUMMARY: The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) published a final rule on February 27, 2015, 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-2015-05-20/html/2015-12220.htm 

June 17, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
National Organic Standards Board: Call for Nominations; Extension of Nomination Period  
SUMMARY: The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published a notice soliciting nominations from qualified individuals to serve on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in the Federal Register on April 9, 2015.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-18/html/2015-11947.htm

 June 19, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Strategic Economic and Community Development  
SUMMARY: This interim rule implements Section 6025, Strategic Economic and Community Development, under the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill). Unless the Agency provides otherwise, the Agency will reserve up to 10 percent of the funds appropriated to [[Page 28808]] certain Rural Development (RD) programs each fiscal year to fund projects that support the implementation of strategic economic and community development plans across multi-jurisdictional areas. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-20/html/2015-12163.htm 

June 22, 2015
COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION 
Notice of Proposed Order and Request for Comment on an Application for an Exemptive Order From Southwest Power Pool, Inc. From Certain Provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act Pursuant to the Authority Provided in Section 4(c)(6) of the Act  
SUMMARY: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is requesting comment on a proposed exemption issued in response to an application from Southwest Power Pool, Inc. to exempt certain Transmission Congestion Rights, Energy Transactions, and Operating Reserve Transactions from the provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act and Commission regulations. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-21/html/2015-12346.htm 

July 6, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Rural Housing Service Notice of Solicitation of Applications (NOSA) for the Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 
SUMMARY: The Rural Housing Service (RHS), an agency within Rural Development, announces that it is soliciting competitive applications under its Housing Preservation Grant (HPG) program.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-20/html/2015-12224.htm 

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Rural Utilities Service Announcement of Grant Application Deadlines 
SUMMARY: The Rural Utilities Service (RUS), an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), announces its Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program application window for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-22/html/2015-12222.htm 

July 20, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Notice of Request for Extension of Approval of an Information Collection; Importation of Christmas Cactus and Easter Cactus in Growing Media From the Netherlands and Denmark 
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, this notice announces the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's intention to request an extension of approval of an information collection associated with regulations for the importation of Christmas cactus and Easter cactus in growing media from the Netherlands and Denmark.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-19/html/2015-12073.htm

 July 21, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Forest Service Information Collection; Community Forest and Open Space Program
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, the Forest Service (FS) is seeking comments from all interested individuals and organizations on the extension with no revision of a currently approved information collection; Community Forest and Open Space Program (Community Forest Program). 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-22/html/2015-12515.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.