Industry representatives testified on behalf of NAMA about proposed IWG (Interagency Working Group) advertising guidelines at a hearing before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade and the Subcommittee on Health of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Statements provided by industry argued the proposals are overly broad and are a direct contradiction to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Statements made by NAMA and other industry representatives in May 2011 at the Forum on Food Marketed to Children provided the impetus for the hearing, as did comments submitted in April 2011. NAMA President Mary Waters testified at the Forum on Food Marketed to Children, urging the IWG to withdrawal the flawed guidelines because grain foods were not on the IWG list of foods that provided a “meaningful contribution” to the health of children. As a result of the many comments received from various stakeholders, the IWG said it is considering significant revisions to its initial proposal.
(The IWG is a four agency working group: Federal Trade Commission, Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.)
NAMA, along with 23 food and agricultural trade associations, has asked the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to reject any attempt to impose new food safety user fees. The Administration’s FY 2012 budget for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed raising revenue from new user fees. According to FDA’s budget, “The Administration will work with the Congress to enact additional food safety fees to support full implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The Budget reflects the collection of these fees in 2013 and beyond.” While the request did not detail the exact nature of the fees, Congress rejected such fees during consideration of FSMA. NAMA told the committee that federal food safety programs and inspections benefit all American consumers and, therefore, should be funded by appropriated funds.
Read user fee comments at https://www.namamillers.org/letter-to-fda-re-user-fees/.
On October 19 a coalition of 33 U.S. businesses and industry associations wrote to the House of Representatives leaders urging a bi-partisan effort to pass a bill including a multi-year extension of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. CFATS is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Currently, year-to-year extensions leave industry without the regulatory certainty and consistency to make investment decisions to comply with the law.
The coalition also urged Congress to use the CFATS reauthorization as an opportunity to make changes that promote regulatory efficiency and minimize costly and burdensome requirements. An example, the coalition noted, would be to allow current personnel surety standards that require vetting of employees with access to restricted areas to suffice rather than duplicative and onerous background checks being proposed by DHS.
The letter was sent to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD).
Link to the letter: https://www.namamillers.org/letter-to-house-of-representatives-re-cfats/.
The NAMA Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve funds for the Future Miller Public Policy Experience that was first introduced in August 2011. The pilot program was received well by the NAMA members and four interns who participated. The purpose of the program is to show interns working at member mills the connection between their work in the mills and the legislation and regulations guiding their work.
Tentative dates for the 2012 program are July 24-26, 2012. The program will be expanded to eight interns. More details will be available in the spring.
At its October meeting, a United Nations panel agreed with the United States government’s official request for NAMA, and recommended that the Critical Use Exemption (CUE) be granted in full at 18.201 metric tons for 2013. NAMA’s CUE will receive its final review, and expected approval, at the meeting of the United Nations in Bali, Indonesia the third week in November.
Methyl bromide was scheduled to completely banned in the 90’s, but NAMA’s legislative victory in Congress pushed the ban until 2005 with the opportunity for continued, but reduced, access to methyl bromide through the annual allocation of CUE’s.
In August 2011, NAMA submitted its CUE petition for calendar year 2014. Only NAMA members can access methyl bromide under the NAMA CUE. For each fumigation, the methyl bromide applicator must file a certificate attesting the fumigant was used in accordance with the NAMA CUE.
NAMA joined the National Association of Wheat Growers and others in the grain chain in a letter urging the Super Committee to maintain critical funding for research for food and agriculture, and avoid further cuts when developing overall budget proposals for the future. NAMA reiterated the significant role the food and agriculture industry plays in the overall health and security of the U.S. economy, and noted that for every $1 invested in publicly funded agricultural research, $20 in economic activity is generated.
On October 12 the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate passed free trade agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. On October 24, President Obama signed the implementing legislation for the FTAs, as well as a bill extending the Generalized System of Preferences, Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) providing benefits to U.S. workers losing their jobs as a result of freer trade, and the Andean Trade Preference Act. Negotiations on the FTAs were completed some time ago, but stimulus funding and the TAA renewal delayed legislative approval. As part of NAMA’s support for free trade and the need for further liberalization of global food trade, NAMA has signed onto several letters to the Administration encouraging the submission of these FTAs for Congress’s approval.
The need for more productive acres and the current budget situation have combined to put a spotlight on the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Looking to cut $40 billion from farm programs over the next 10 years, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Representative Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) have introduced legislation that would, among other things, reduce the CRP from its current 32 million acre cap to a new 24 million acre cap.
The National Association of Wheat Growers recently adopted a new policy that supports reducing the CRP acreage cap through market based approaches such as rental rates, flexibility of use and allowing contracts to expire on schedule. Enrollment or re-enrollment of acres should be prioritized using the environmental benefit index, the highly erodible land designation and consideration of soil type indicators
NAMA has been consistent in its call for the release of lands from CRP that could be farmed without sacrificing environmental goals. Estimates are that roughly 30-50 percent of the CRP could be farmed sustainably.
NAMA has consistently maintained decisions regarding CRP enrollment should be made on environmental as well as economic grounds. Environmentally sensitive land should be protected in a conservation program. However, there are many acres currently in the CRP that can be farmed in environmentally responsible ways. Idling productive, non-environmentally sensitive land has contributed to dramatic reductions in acreage for both wheat and oats, especially in the northern Plains states. Wheat states Kansas, North Dakota and Montana each have more than 2.6 million acres currently enrolled in the CRP.
In October, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a legal petition with the FDA demanding the labeling of foods with biotech content. The CFS claims the current guidelines are misleading and deny consumers their “right to know.”
The petition claims that biotech foods should be labeled since they are so different than their conventional counterpart they can be patented for their novelty. The petitioners also claim biotech crops impose significant environmental harms such as contamination of natural crops and massive increases in pesticide usage.
Since 1992, FDA’s policy has been that foods with biotech content did not need to be labeled unless the food’s common name no longer adequately describes the new food, it has a nutritional property that is significantly different from its conventional counterpart, or the new food includes an allergen that consumers would not expect to be present based on the name of the food.
The petition was filed by CFS on behalf of the “Just Label It” campaign, a coalition of more than 350 companies, organizations, scientists, doctors and individuals.
Dr. Kay Simmons, Deputy Administrator of Crop Production and Protection and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, announced the appointment of a new Acting National Program Leader (NPL) for Grain Crops. The new NPL, Dr. David Marshall worked for North American Plant Breeders, Inc., and was a cereal pathologist and breeder for the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station at Texas A&M, reaching the rank of full professor in 1985. The focus of Dr. Marshall’s research is the breeding of improved cereal crops and the genetics of disease resistance in plants. In addition, Dr. Marshall has led or cooperated as a team member in the release of 48 cultivars and germplasms of wheat, oat and barley. Since 2005, Dr. Marshall has been instrumental in the global effort to address the growing threat of Ug99 stem rust and serves as the coordinator for evaluation of U.S. wheat and barley to stem rust in Njoro, Kenya.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have identified a number of stem rust-resistant wheat varieties and are retesting them to verify their resistance.
ARS plant pathologist Mike Bonman at the agency’s Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit in Aberdeen, Idaho, and his colleagues screened more than 3,000 wheat land acres from the U.S. National Small Grains Collection against new races of the stem rust pathogen found in wheat fields in Kenya. Land acres with confirmed resistance are being crossed with susceptible wheat to determine the genetic basis of the resistance.
The research team’s goal is to find new genes for resistance to a rust strain called Ug99, because that strain has the capacity to overcome many of the resistance genes that have been used for the past 50 years. This work will help Africa’s growers now and will help suppress disease and reduce damage in developing countries. It also will prepare the U.S. for Ug99 if the disease arrives here, according to Bonman.
Read more at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2011/111024.htm