On April 5th, the Food and Drug Administration released the FSMA Final Rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food. The rule establishes requirements for shippers, loaders, carriers by motor or rail vehicle, and receivers involved in transporting human and animal food to use sanitary practices to ensure the safety of that food. Key requirements of the rule include:
Vehicles and transportation equipment: The design and maintenance of vehicles and transportation equipment to ensure that it does not cause the food that it transports to become unsafe. For example, they must be suitable and adequately cleanable for their intended use and capable of maintaining temperatures necessary for the safe transport of food.
Transportation operations: The measures taken during transportation to ensure food safety, such as adequate temperature controls, preventing contamination of ready to eat food from touching raw food, protection of food from contamination by non-food items in the same load or previous load, and protection of food from cross-contact, i.e., the unintentional incorporation of a food allergen.
Training:Training of carrier personnel in sanitary transportation practices and documentation of the training. This training is required when the carrier and shipper agree that the carrier is responsible for sanitary conditions during transport.
Records:Maintenance of records of written procedures, agreements and training (required of carriers). The required retention time for these records depends upon the type of record and when the covered activity occurred, but does not exceed 12 months.
Small businesses will have two years to comply with the regulation, while all other businesses will have one year to comply. FDA has developed a fact sheet on the rule, and more information can be found here.
On April 7th, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) issued a proposed rule regarding organic livestock and poultry production practices. According to AMS, the proposal is designed to provide clear guidance for organic producers and handlers to provide for their animal’s welfare.
Major provisions of the proposed rule include:
- Clarifying how producers and handlers must treat livestock and poultry to ensure their health and wellbeing throughout life, including transport and slaughter.
- Specifying which physical alterations are allowed and prohibited in organic livestock and poultry production.
- Establishing minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for poultry.
AMS asserts that the rule is needed to ensure a consistent standard for organic production and will strengthen consumer confidence in organic meat, poultry and eggs. The rule has drawn criticism from some in industry, particularly large egg producers. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts has also expressed concern with the egg provision requiring producers to “train” their chickens to go outside to enriched environments. Sen. Roberts is preparing a letter to USDA detailing his questions and concerns.
More information on the proposed rule can be found on the AMS website including text of the proposed rule and a questions and answers document.
On April 12th, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced changes to the Margin Protection Program (MPP) that will enable participating dairy farms to update their production history when an eligible family member joins the operation. As a result of the change, when children, grandchildren or their spouses become part of a dairy operation that is enrolled in MPP, the production from the dairy cows they bring with them into the business can now be protected. The change is intended to help new dairy farmers get started in the family business and ensure that safety net coverage remains available for growing farms.
The MPP is a voluntary program established in the 2014 Farm Bill to help protect participating dairy producers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below a selected level of protection. The program changes are effective on April 13, 2016. Any dairy operation already enrolled in the Margin Protection Program that had an intergenerational transfer occur will have an opportunity to increase the dairy operations production history during the 2017 registration and annual coverage election period. More information on the MPP program can be found here.
On April 19th, the House Appropriations Committee met to consider its version of the FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The bill provides $21.3 billion in discretionary spending, including funds for agricultural research. Within the research accounts, the Agricultural Research Service would receive $1.151 billion, an $8 million increase over FY 2016. The committee bill also includes $99.6 million for ARS Buildings and Facilities to continue funding projects prioritized in the ARS Capital Investment Strategy. For the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), most accounts were funded at the same level as last year, the major exception being the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which received a $25 million increase from $350 million to $375 million. A summary of selected key accounts is listed below:
FY 2016 – FINAL
FY 2017 – President’s Budget
FY 2017 – House
Agricultural Research Service
ARS Buildings and Facilities
NIFA Research and Education
$375 million (discretionary) $325 million (mandatory)
$375 million (discretionary) $0 (mandatory)
Expanded Section 1433
NIFA Extension Activities
NIFA Integrated Activities
The committee continues to express its concern for animal welfare at ARS research locations. While the committee acknowledges in its report that some of the claims made in the 2015 New York Times article alleging problems at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center were exaggerated or taken out of context, the committee states very clearly no type of abuse or mistreatment will be tolerated. The report also contains language demanding that all animals be treated humanely and that the risk of premature death will be limited wherever possible.
Floor action for the House Bill has not been scheduled at this time. It is expected that the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will mark-up its version of the bill in the coming weeks. More details on the House committee bill and report can be found at the following links: Bill Text / Committee Report