USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and Office of the Chief Scientist has announced that they will host a stakeholder webinar on July 19 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eastern time to discuss, prioritize, and develop strategies to help meet the most pressing animal health research education and extension needs related to AMR.
Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis, and slots are limited. USDA is requesting that, whenever possible, multiple participants at the same location register only once and join the webinar as a group to accommodate the maximum number of participants. Registration can be found at the following link: Register now
USDA is also asking for pre-webinar input to help drive the discussion during the live event. USDA requests that stakeholders share their views on the top five antimicrobial resistance issues in the context of animal health by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (include “AMR” in the subject line). When drafting input, USDA encourages that stakeholders consider the following issues: (1) the largest gaps of knowledge, (2) the major research, education or extension questions that need to be answered, and (3) the tools needed to address the knowledge gaps and answer major questions. (Please note: Only the first 500 characters in each comment will be reviewed.) Comments received by July 5 will be reviewed and incorporated into the webinar discussion.
On June 30th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its fifth Biannual Progress Report on Judicious Use of Antimicrobials in Food-producing Animals. FDA has called on animal drug sponsors of approved medically important antimicrobials administered to food-producing animals through medicated feed or water to remove from their product labels indications for use related to growth promotion, and to bring the remaining therapeutic uses of these products under the oversight of a veterinarian by the end of December 2016. The Progress Report affirms that all of the affected drug sponsors have committed in writing to making the changes described in the guidance by the end of 2016. The report also includes information about FDA’s efforts on outreach to industry and efforts to improve data collection. A copy of the Progress Report can be found here.
On June 29th, USDA announced the creation of a web-based portal to help stakeholders and the public better access agency information. The page features USDA’s collective body of work on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), avian influenza and swine influenza as well as other One Health resources. USDA’s One Health approach embraces the idea that a disease problem impacting the health of humans, animals, and the environment can only be solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and institutions. Using this collaborative approach, USDA, with its partners, seeks to maintain or reduce health risks to animals, humans, the environment and society. USDA has also released a One Health Fact Sheet in June to help promote the department’s approach.
In June 2016, the SoAR Foundation, published a report entitled “Retaking the Field: The Case for a Surge in Agricultural Research.” The report is intended to help make the case to policymakers and the public for increased federal agricultural research funding by celebrating the advances and exploring the untapped potential of the agriculture and food sciences. SoAR is conducting briefings with Congress regarding the report to help build support for increased investments in agricultural research. More information on SoAR and the report can be found at the following website: http://supportagresearch.org/retakingthefield/
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced on June 23rd that they had reached an agreement on legislation to address the labeling of GMO products. The agreement represents a bipartisan compromise aimed at establishing a national policy for GMO labeling and stopping the efforts by some states that would have created a patchwork of labeling requirements for the food industry.
The State of Vermont was one of the first states to enact its own labeling policy, which is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2016. Under the Senate agreement, the Vermont law, and others like it, would be preempted. The Senate agreement also provides options for the food industry to provide consumers with GMO related information without stigmatizing the use of biotechnology.
A copy of the Senate agreement can be found here. The full Senate is expected to vote on the legislation when it returns after July 4th. The House passed its version of GMO labeling legislation in 2015, which contains several differences with the Senate version. Given the timing of the Vermont law going into effect, supporters of the Senate agreement will be urging members of the House to approve the Senate version quickly.
Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Senator Jodi Ernst (R-IA) have introduced legislation that would prohibit the military from participating in “meatless Mondays”. Congressman Smith was successful in including the language as an amendment to the House version of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2017, which was passed on June 16th. The current Senate version of the defense appropriations bill, which has passed through the Appropriations Committee, but not the Senate floor, does not include the language.
Historically, inspections of catfish have been under the jurisdiction of the FDA. That policy changed in the 2008 Farm Bill when the inspection authority was moved to the USDA. The move was championed by southern lawmakers in an attempt to assist the domestic catfish industry and slow imports of catfish from Asia. Efforts are now underway to move the inspection program back to FDA. Proponents of the switch back to FDA site a GAO report stating that the program is duplicative and results in wasteful spending. Vietnam has also threatened to challenge the policy in the World Trade Organization. Legislation moving the program back to FDA passed the Senate in late May and a group of lawmakers are now working to advance the legislation in the House. Debate on the issue is getting heated as lawmakers from the South, joined by some northern Democrats who believe the USDA program is more rigorous for food safety are pushing to keep the program at USDA.