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NAMA News July 13, 2012

  • Christine Cochran Named New Grain Foods Foundation Leader
  • House Agriculture Committee passes Farm Bill 
  • Members of Congress Address Methyl Bromide Access Concerns
  • Canada Works Toward Coordinating Food Safety 
  • Cargo Preference on Food Aid Unexpectedly Rolled Back in Transportation Bill
  • SWQL Seeks Research Molecular Biologist

Christine Cochran Named New Grain Foods Foundation Leader

Yesterday, Grain Foods Foundation (GFF) co-chairs Breck Barton, Cereal Food Processors, and Allen Shiver, Flowers Foods, named Christine Cochran executive director of the Grain Foods Foundation, effective August 1. Cochran is currently president of the Commodity Markets Council (CMC) in Washington, DC.

“The Grain Foods Foundation is very excited to bring on board an incredibly bright, talented and dynamic leader to aggressively promote the nutritional benefits of grain foods to key influencer communities. Ms. Cochran has the management style and skills to lead GFF in the challenging environment,” said GFF co-chair Breck Barton. “From her family’s wheat farm in Kansas, to her Agriculture Economics degree from the University of Missouri, connections in the industry, and as a working mom, Ms. Cochran brings a host of excellent qualifications to this important leadership role.”

In January 2012, the GFF board refocused its mission to change the primary focus of its efforts from consumers to key decision makers, to proactively preempt misinformation regarding grain foods, and to develop a crisis communications plan and appropriate reserves to enable prompt industry response to neutralize such attacks.

Go to http://www.bakingbusiness.com/News/News%20Home/Business/2012/7/Christine%20Cochran%20to%20head%20Grain%20Foods%20Foundation.aspx?cck=1 for a copy of the press release.


House Agriculture Committee passes Farm Bill

After a 15-hour mark-up session, the House Agriculture Committee approved a new five-year farm bill July 12 on a 35-11 vote. The bill contains several items of interest to NAMA members. With a limited number of workdays before the start of the August congressional recess, it is unclear what the next steps will be for the legislation. Key provisions include:

Biotechnology

The bill includes legislative language designed to expedite regulatory review of biotechnology traits by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service by limiting litigation over environmental reviews.

NAMA worked with a coalition of organizations whose member companies are strong supporters of biotechnology and represent the vast majority of the food and feed value chain who oppose the language as currently drafted. The coalition believes legislation to reform biotech regulation must address such significant issues as risk assessment, stewardship and responsibility important to downstream stakeholders. These challenges include those related to end-product ingredient functionality and export limitations that amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in supply chain management risk. Without addressing these issues, the language is incomplete.

The coalition had many productive meetings with Committee members and staff and other stakeholders to discuss the implications of this language. We continue to be in contact with Committee staff who believe the dialogue was productive and long overdue and they plan to continue to facilitate discussions with the objective of reaching a consensus on all of the issues of concern to the food chain.

Conservation Reserve Program Reform

The House farm bill continues the reforms advanced in the Senate passed farm bill on a slightly faster schedule. Like the Senate bill, the House bill would reduce the CRP cap in steps from 32 million acres to 25 million acres by 2017. About 29 million acres are currently enrolled, of which more than 8 million acres are so-called “prime farmland” and can be farmed without sacrificing environmental goals. Contracts set to expire September 3 include 6.5 million acres.

The action, if enacted into law, is expected to save nearly $4.0 billion. At its peak, the CRP included 34 million acres.


Members of Congress Address Methyl Bromide Access Concerns

A letter was sent last week by the leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Agriculture Committee to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to assess whether the Obama administration has plans to ensure there will be sufficient quantities of methyl bromide for critical uses in 2013 and beyond.

The letter was a precursor to a hearing scheduled for July 18 by the committee’s Energy and Power Subcommittee. Additionally, the hearing will serve as a kickoff for a methyl bromide bill–the U.S. Agricultural Sector Relief Act of 2012–expected to be introduced shortly after the hearing.

NAMA has been working with other food-industry stakeholders as part of the Crop Protection Coalition to identify policy changes needed to improve the review and approval of methyl bromide critical-use exemptions.

Go to http://www.namamillers.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/House-letter-to-EPA-Administrator-Jackson.pdf to read the letter.


Canada Works Toward Coordinating Food Safety

In a strategic planning session in October 2011, NAMA’s executive committee made working toward greater alignment of food safety laws and regulations in the United States and Canada a priority.

In December 2011, President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper created a Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) with the goal of promoting economic growth and benefits to consumers through increased regulatory transparency and coordination. NAMA has been working to promote alignment of the two nations’ food safety statutes through the RCC and has met with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials leading the effort in the joint council to develop common approaches to food safety between the United States and Canada.

Legislation to overhaul Canada’s food safety statutes has now been introduced in the Canadian Parliament. The bill would consolidate food safety provisions that are currently not uniform in different jurisdictions, include new prohibitions against tampering, and strengthen traceability and import controls.

The bill does not yet include language changes that would make the Canadian and U.S. laws comparable. Canada has a zero-tolerance policy for deleterious substances, even natural ones that originate on the farm such as mycotoxins. In contrast, U.S. law allows some regulatory flexibility regarding the health risk, if any, of minute levels of such substances.

NAMA is supporting the efforts of the Canadian National Millers Association and other Canadian stakeholder groups to introduce more flexible regulatory language in an amendment between now and next fall. In furtherance of these efforts, NAMA met with the agriculture staff in the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa in June.



Cargo Preference on Food Aid Unexpectedly Rolled Back in Transportation Bill

A largely unknown provision of the recently passed Surface Transportation Bill reduced the application of U.S. flag cargo preference for food aid shipments on U.S. vessels from 75 percent to 50 percent. This reverses a controversial policy that stood for 27 years.

The Cargo Preference Compromise in the 1985 Farm Bill between U.S. Merchant Marine interests and agriculture commodity groups increased application of the U.S. vessel requirement on food aid shipments from 50 percent to 75 percent in exchange for no cargo preference application on export-credit guarantee programs. To reduce the impact of this provision to food aid budgets, the higher U.S. flag freight costs came from the federal transportation budget.

Any effort by the maritime industry to reverse this action would require a budget offset to pay for the higher cost of U.S. flag freight.


SWQL Seeks Research Molecular Biologist

The Soft Wheat Quality Research Lab (SWQL) in Wooster, Ohio, is seeking a full-time research molecular biologist (plants)/geneticist (plants)/chemist. The position is located at the Department of Horticulture and Crop Sciences at the Ohio State University, Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center.

The incumbent will develop and lead an active, interdisciplinary program of independent and collaborative research to identify and characterize molecular, biochemical, chemical, and/or physical differences in wheat that are related to flour quality in eastern soft wheat and to link these differences to wheat genes and genomic markers that underlie soft wheat quality.

This individual will also manage the soft wheat quality testing program in the SWQL and work with collaborators, stakeholders, and Agricultural Research Service (ARS) leadership to identify research needs and implement an effective research program.

For more information regarding the vacancy, visit the ARS careers website at http://www.ars.usda.gov/careers.

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