October 6, 2015
Leaders of the House and Senate were able to pass a short term continuing resolution (CR) on September 30th that funds the government through December 11th. Under the CR, all government programs, including research programs administered by USDA, would be funded at current levels (minus a 0.21 percent reduction across the board). The CR was very controversial, as many Republicans in Congress wanted to use the bill to defund Planned Parenthood amid the recent videos that have been released. House Speaker John Boehner’s announcement on Friday, September 25th that he will be resigning from Congress helped paved the way for passage of a “clean” CR without additional fights to include a Planned Parenthood provision. He had been under strong pressure from some House Republicans to include the defunding provision and was also being targeted for ouster from his leadership post.
On September 10th, the Food and Drug Administration’s Final Rule on Preventive Controls for Animal Food. The rule is part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which is the largest update to FDA’s food safety authorities in over 70 years. While the main focus of the legislation is human food, there are several regulations that impact food for animals. The Preventive Controls rule creates a system by which regulated facilities must establish food safety plans that include hazard analysis and risk based preventive controls. Compliance for large businesses begins in September 2016, while small and very small businesses have additional time to come into compliance. A fact sheet on the final rule can be found here.
At the same time as FDA is finalizing major FSMA rules, the agency is continuing its push for funding to implement and enforce the regulations. In a recent hearing before the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on September 16th, FDA leaders expressed concern that without adequate funding the effectiveness of FSMA will be impacted. FDA has requested an increase of $109 million for FSMA in FY 2016. The House and Senate bills for FY 2016 would provide $41 and $45 million in additional funds, respectively. FDA stated that unless full funding is provided, the agency will have to make hard choices about delaying or disrupting the implementation of FSMA programs.
On Tuesday, September 29, The House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research held a hearing on held a public hearing to review research innovations achieved by the nation’s agricultural colleges and universities. While the focus of the hearing centered on research in general, several of those testifying gave a more direct emphasis to animal agriculture and the needs which are present in the field. Former FASS and PSA board member Mike Lacy from the University of Georgia was one of the witnesses. He discussed the importance of animal and poultry science in addressing critical issues such as food security, health and sustainability and the need for additional federal investment including the importance of the Sec. 1433 competitive funding mechanism which was authorized in the Farm Bill and how it should be funded at an adequate level. Research on other topics such as avian influenza and food safety, and the handling of meat products all were discussed. Members specifically pressed witnesses on the scope and need for agriculture research funding. A link to the Committee press release on the hearing as well as links to the testimony of each witness can be found here.
In addition, the House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the development of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans on October 7th. The draft guidelines have come under fire from animal agriculture because the current draft does not recognize the value of lean meat as a party of a healthy diet. The current version also greatly expands the scope of the guidelines to consider non-dietary factors such as environmental sustainability. The draft is critical of the meat industry and its perceived impact on sustainability. ASAS submitted public comments to USDA and HHS expressing concerns about these provisions and the apparent disregarding of science-based information indicating the importance of lean meat in a healthy diet.
On September 30th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a jointly sponsored public meeting to obtain public input on possible approaches for collecting additional on-farm antimicrobial drug use and resistance data. The meeting was held in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As a part of the government’s response to Executive Order 13676: Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, the agencies are working to improve the collection of antibiotic use data to better assess the impact of measures being implemented to foster the judicious use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals. A copy of the Federal Register notice with additional details about the meeting can be found here.
The Animal Agriculture Coalition held a meeting in Washington on September 14th. FASS Washington Representative Walt Smith participated in the meeting. The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss AAC member priorities for the remainder of the year. A consistent theme emerged from the AAC members. Each of the organizations indicated that animal health and disease was a major priority, ranging from avian influenza and PEDv to antimicrobial resistance. There was consensus that additional research and science-based solutions will be critical to address these issues.