Public Meetings, Congressional Hearings, Calls for Comments

WASHINGTON NEWS

On Thursday, January 22, the House Agriculture Committee met to organize the Committee.  Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) took the opportunity to lay out his plans for upcoming Committee action. First and foremost on his list is to ensure that the Agricultural Act of 2014 is implemented appropriately. Chairman Conaway spoke of the need to reauthorize the CFTC and he also said that the Committee "will focus on aggressive oversight of all policies and programs under the Committee's jurisdiction, including a full-scale review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program." Chairman Conaway made clear in his statement that he was "not pre-judging the outcome of the work our committee will undertake. We owe it to American taxpayers to do a thoughtful and thorough review of the programs under our jurisdiction."  

Meanwhile, earlier in the week Ranking Member Collin Peterson announced the 19 Democrats appointed to serve on the House Agriculture Committee for the 114th Congress.  The Democratic members are as follows (*new members):
Collin Peterson (MN-7)
David Scott (GA-13)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Tim Walz (MN-1)
Marcia Fudge (OH-11)
Jim McGovern (MA-2)
Suzan DelBene (WA-1)
Filemon Vela (TX-34)
Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1)
Ann Kuster (NH-2)
Rick Nolan (MN-8)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18)
*Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1)
*Pete Aguilar (CA-31)
*Stacey Plaskett (VI-AL)
*Alma Adams (NC-12)
*Gwen Graham (FL-2)
*Brad Ashford (NE-2)

On the Senate Appropriations front U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) was selected to serve as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies. Chairman Moran stated his desire specifically to focus on agriculture research and extension and Farm Bill implementation.  In addition, through the subcommittee's jurisdiction over the FDA budget, Chairman Moran intends to "work to advance public health innovations, including development of new medicines, medical devices and food safety technology. It is also critical that as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars we take a hard look at spending in areas of government that aren't working, and many times even harmful to rural America."

FOOD & AGRICULTURE

  • View the opening statement of Chairman K. Michael Conaway, Committee on agriculture business meeting to consider organizational matters of the Committee in the 114th Congress.
  • View the House Agriculture Committee's Oversight Plan. 
  • Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran announced subcommittee chairmen for the 114th Congress, indicating he expects this team to help produce and advance individual appropriations bills that are in the public interest and that reflect credit on the Senate. Read more
  • House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson announced the 19 Democrats appointed to serve on the House Agriculture Committee for the 114th Congress. Read more
  • Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, announced the recommendations Appropriations Committee Democrats have sent to the Democratic Steering & Policy Committee regarding Ranking Members and full membership of each of the twelve Appropriations subcommittees in the 114th Congress.Read more
  • Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry announced the Committee will hold a Business Meeting on Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 4:00pm to welcome new members and to approve the Committee Funding Resolution, Committee Rules, and Subcommittee Assignments.Read more 
  • The Senate on Wednesday voted 97-1 in favor of a an amendment stating that "climate change is real." Read more
  • In their continued fight against genetically engineered (GE) fish, U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA), Don Young (R-AK), Walter B. Jones (R-NC), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Jared Huffman (D-CA) introduced two pieces of legislation intended to prevent GE fish from making its way onto the nation's dinner plates and spreading into the nation's oceans. Read more
  • States that need help falling in line with the Obama administration's climate change agenda just got a boost from Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire philanthropist. Read more
  • The Senate worked through the night Thursday to get through amendments on legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which is headed for final passage next week. Read more
  • A recent survey by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics finds that over 80 percent of Americans support "mandatory labels on foods containing DNA," about the same number as support mandatory labeling of GMO foods "produced with genetic engineering." Read more
  • Two teams of scientists from Harvard and Yale have reached a crucial milestone in the effort to build synthetic life forms: a powerful way to prevent genetically modified organisms from escaping into the wild. Read more
  • Researchers at Colorado State University are rolling out a series of projects to track antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the livestock industry, in an attempt to determine whether farm practices are fueling the rise of "superbugs." Read more
  • A trio of state laws that went into effect Jan. 1 in California will not immediately turn the tide on decades of groundwater overdraft though that is their long-term goal. Read more
  • Recent restaurant sales and traffic comparisons, as well as trends in the general U.S. economy, are fueling industry optimism for 2015, attendees at the Global Best Practices Conference were told this week. Read more
  • Fast-casual concept Dig Inn has raised $15 million in financing from a group of investors, and plans to use the funds to expand outside its New York City base and explore using more technology in its restaurants, the operator said Tuesday. Read more
  • The USDA has confirmed several findings of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in the Pacific flyway since mid-December. Read more
  • USDA's decision to deregulate the dicamba-tolerant trait in cotton and soybeans moves farmers a step closer to having a new tool for controlling Palmer amaranth and other economically troublesome weeds. Read more
  • The deadline is fast approaching for reporting water use in voluntary metering program. Read more
  • A USDA report bolsters Senator Casey's efforts to protect Pennsylvania producers from the 'Honey Launderers'. Read more
  • The Pew Charitable Trusts launched groundbreaking technology that will help authorities monitor, detect, and respond to illicit fishing activity across the world's oceans. The development of Project Eyes on the Seas, as the system is known, furthers a long-term effort by Pew to dramatically reduce illegal or "pirate" fishing. Read more
  • On Friday, Jan. 16, the USDA published a summary of the meat and poultry recalls issued in 2014. Read more
  • The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) proposed new federal standards to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey products as well as raw chicken breasts, legs and wings. Read more
  • Agriculture Under Secretary Lisa Mensah announced five awards to expand access to credit for rural businesses, particularly small businesses in poor and underserved areas. Read more

TRADE QUICK READ

Cuba

  • American officials including Democratic members of Congress and U.S. Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson met with members of the Cuban government to discuss their support for the president's agenda on normalization.
  • Senate Foreign Relations Cmte. Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) plans to hold hearings on Pres. Obama's regulatory action in the coming weeks.

TTIP, TPP and TPA

  • Major changes to trade restrictions on either side of both the Atlantic and Pacific are under consideration.
  • Protests were held in Berlin by farmers and activists against the prospect of importing American products that have been genetically modified, chemically-treated or injected with antibiotics.
  • Whether or not Congress passes Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) will determine the fate of both agreements when they are finalized.
  • Certain members of Congress joined the National Farmers Union to oppose the trade proposals and TPA, administration officials and the president launched a lobbying effort in support of TPA.

Mexican Trucking Dispute

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation will allow Mexican trucking companies to operate in the United States after a pilot program concluded that Mexican trucks demonstrate a sufficient level of safety.
  • Until now, trucks from Mexico were not allowed to travel more than 20 miles from the border into the United States.
  • Pacific Northwest fruit producers praised the decision which eliminates the possibility of Mexico placing up to $2 billion in retaliatory tariffs on imports from the U.S.
  • Unions and Ranking Member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) expressed opposition to the decision, finding the pilot programs' conclusions on safety to be insufficient.

Country of Origin Labeling (COOL)

  • Canada and Mexico blame the U.S. COOL law for a 50% decrease in exports since 2008.
  • While the U.S. appeals a WTO decision against COOL filed by Canada and Mexico, business groups urge Congress to avoid retaliation by supporting the ruling.
  • The National Farm Union disagrees, saying the economic downturn of 2008 is to blame for decreased imports from Canada and Mexico, not COOL.

TRADE & INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURE NEWS

  • Australian beef exports are likely to fall short of official estimates in the year to June, with ranchers in the world's third-biggest supplier culling fewer cows as heavy rains revive pastures scorched by a prolonged drought, analysts said. Read more
  • Air pollution in the Chinese capital in recent days soared to 20 times the World Health Organization's recommended levels.
  • View Bloomberg's article, "First U.S. Envoy Heads to Cuba to Start Normalization Talks."
  • A frustrated White House is planning to blitz congressional Democrats on trade in the weeks following Tuesday's State of the Union address. Read more
  • The United States will urge Cuba to lift travel restrictions on U.S. diplomats and agree to opening embassies in historic talks on restoring relations this week in Havana, a senior State Department official said on Monday. Read more
  • Food Standards Scotland is set to start on April 1. Read more
  • Roche has boosted its efforts to tackle antibiotic resistance, striking a deal worth up to $750 million with Japan's Meiji Seika Pharma and Canada's Fedora for a drug that can restore the power of antibiotics to combat infections. Read more
  • New Zealand's food and biosecurity regulatory body has proposed new fees to provide continuing food-safety and border services for importers and exporters, and the country's growing wine industry is not happy about it. Read more 
  • The controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) may be everywhere, but it's probably not hurting anyone, European regulators said Wednesday. Read more
  • World Trade Organization's Appellate Body affirms U.S. Victory in trade enforcement dispute against Argentina's import licensing restrictions. Read more
  • A USTR-led interagency review has concluded that while Bangladesh has made progress over the last year to address fire and building safety issues in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector, further progress is needed, including to address serious worker rights issues, before reinstatement of Bangladesh's trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) can be considered. Read more
  • As the season for wheat planting in Iraq wound down early last month, farmers in areas under the control of Sunni militant group Islamic State grew worried. Read more
  • Two days of historic talks between the United States and Cuba have ended with both sides agreeing to meet again. Read more
  • Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza has signed a franchise agreement with Five Star Blaze Holdings Inc. to open at least 60 restaurants in Canada, marking the fast-casual chain's first international move, the company said Friday. Read more
  • The Senate's top Democrat said he won't consider giving President Obama expanded trade powers until he is convinced that far-reaching trade agreements will help the middle class. Read more

USDA REPORTS

WHITE HOUSE

CONGRESS 

POLITICS

BUDGET, ECONOMY & FINANCE

  • The European Central Bank has approved €60 billion in monthly bond purchases through September 2016, in a bid to boost the Continent's economy and stave off deflation.
  • International Monetary Fund economists now project 3.5 percent growth in 2015-down from an October estimate of 3.8 percent-due to a variety of factors, including declining investment, and in spite of falling oil prices. 

FOREIGN AFFAIRS & DEFENSE

HEALTH CARE

MEETINGS

January 26, 28 and February 2, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Forest Service Notice of Public Open House Meetings for the Tongass Land and Resource Management Plan Amendment SUMMARY: The Tongass National Forest is working to complete an amendment to the Tongass Land and Resource Management Plan (forest plan) by August 2016.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-23/html/2015-01095.htm 

February 26, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR 
State of Arizona Resource Advisory Council Meeting SUMMARY: In accordance with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 and the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Arizona Resource Advisory Council (RAC) will meet in Phoenix, Arizona, as indicated below. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-23/html/2015-01210.htm 

FOOD SAFETY

October 1, 2014
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Food and Nutrition Service Emergency Food Assistance Program; Availability of Foods for Fiscal Year 2015  
SUMMARY: This notice announces the surplus and purchased foods that the Department expects to make available for donation to States for use in providing nutrition assistance to the needy under The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-21/html/2015-00879.htm 

January 1, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Food and Nutrition Service Summer Food Service Program 2015 Reimbursement Rates 
SUMMARY: This notice informs the public of the annual adjustments to the reimbursement rates for meals served in the Summer Food Service Program for Children.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-21/html/2015-00877.htm 

January 23, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Animal Welfare; Retail Pet Stores and Licensing Exemptions; Technical Amendment  
SUMMARY: In a final rule published in the Federal Register on September 18, 2013, and effective on November 18, 2013, we amended the regulations concerning the definition of retail pet store and related regulations in order to ensure that the definition in the regulations is consistent with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), thereby bringing more pet animals sold at retail under the protection of the AWA.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-23/html/2015-01149.htm 

March 24, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Notice of Request for Revision to and Extension of Approval of an Information Collection; Interstate Movement of Sheep and Goats and Recordkeeping for Approved Livestock Facilities and Slaughtering and Rendering Establishments  
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, this notice announces the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's intention to request a revision to and extension of approval of an information collection associated with regulations for the interstate movement of sheep and goats and recordkeeping for approved livestock facilities and slaughtering and rendering establishments.  
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-23/html/2015-01054.htm 

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Notice of Availability of a Pest List for the Interstate Movement of Fresh Sea Asparagus Tips From Hawaii Into the Continental United States  
SUMMARY: We are advising the public that we have prepared a pest list and risk management document regarding the risks associated with the interstate movement of fresh sea asparagus tips from Hawaii into the continental United States.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-23/html/2015-01148.htm 

MARKETING

January 23, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Oranges and Grapefruit Grown in Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas; Decreased Assessment Rate 
SUMMARY: USDA is adopting, as a final rule, without change, an interim rule that decreased the assessment rate established for the Texas Valley Citrus Committee for the 2014-15 and subsequent fiscal periods from $0.16 to $0.11 per 7/10- bushel carton or equivalent of oranges and grapefruit handled. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-22/html/2015-01016.htm 

March 23, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Irish Potatoes Grown in Colorado; Relaxation of the Handling Regulation for Area No. 3  
SUMMARY: This rule revises the minimum quantity exception for potatoes handled under the Colorado potato marketing order, Area No. 3.  
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-22/html/2015-01014.htm 

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE  
Marketing Order Regulating the Handling of Spearmint Oil Produced in the Far West; Revision of the Salable Quantity and Allotment Percentage for Class 3 (Native) Spearmint Oil for the 2014-2015 Marketing Year  
SUMMARY: This interim rule revises the quantity of Class 3 (Native) spearmint oil that handlers may purchase from, or handle on behalf of, producers during the 2014-2015 marketing year under the Far West spearmint oil marketing order.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-22/html/2015-01002.htm 

OTHER ITEMS

January 20, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE A
Monsanto Co.; Determination of Nonregulated Status of Herbicide Resistant Soybean and Cotton  
SUMMARY: We are advising the public of our determination that soybean and cotton genetically engineered for herbicide resistance by the Monsanto Company are no longer considered regulated articles under our regulations governing the introduction of certain genetically engineered organisms.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-20/html/2015-00723.htm 

January 22, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE 
Certain Preserved Mushrooms From the People's Republic of China: Preliminary Results of Antidumping Duty New Shipper Review; 2013-2014  
SUMMARY: The Department of Commerce is conducting a new shipper review of Dezhou Kaihang Agricultural Science Technology Co., Ltd. regarding the antidumping duty order on certain preserved mushrooms from the People's Republic of China.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-22/html/2015-01052.htm 

January 23, 2015
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY  
Flupyradifurone; Pesticide Tolerances  
SUMMARY: This regulation establishes tolerances for residues of flupyradifurone in or on multiple commodities which are identified and discussed later in this document. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-23/html/2015-01013.htm 

February 20, 2015
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Pesticide Product Registrations; Receipt of Applications for New Active Ingredients  
SUMMARY: EPA has received applications to register pesticide products containing active ingredients not included in any currently registered pesticide products. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-21/html/2015-00862.htm 

February 23, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Agricultural Research Service Notice of Intent To Grant Exclusive License
SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given that the USDA, Agricultural Research Service, intends to grant to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln of Lincoln, Nebraska, an exclusive license to the smooth bromegrass variety named "NEWELL."  
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-22/html/2015-00950.htm 

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE 
Agricultural Research Service Notice of Intent To Grant Exclusive License  
SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given that the USDA, Agricultural Research Service, intends to grant to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln of Lincoln, Nebraska, an exclusive license to the switchgrass variety named "LIBERTY."
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-22/html/2015-00951.htm 

March 23, 2015
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Monsanto Co.; Availability of Petition for Determination of Nonregulated Status of Maize Genetically Engineered for Increased Ear Biomass  
SUMMARY: We are advising the public that APHIS has received a petition from the Monsanto Company seeking a determination of nonregulated status of maize designated as event MON 87403, which has been genetically engineered for increased ear biomass. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-20/html/2015-00722.htm 

March 24, 2015
COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION 
Agency Information Collection Activities: Notice of Intent To Renew Collection 3038-0072 Registration of Swap Dealers and Major Swap Participants  
SUMMARY: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is announcing an opportunity for public comment on the proposed collection of certain information by the agency. 
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-23/html/2015-01105.htm 

April 20, 2015
FARM CREDIT ADMINISTRATION 
Organization; Mergers, Consolidations, and Charter Amendments of Banks or Associations  
SUMMARY: The Farm Credit Administration proposes to amend existing regulations related to mergers and consolidations of Farm Credit System banks and associations to clarify the merger review and approval process and incorporate existing practices in the regulations.
Link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-20/html/2015-00676.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.