October 4, 2016
With only a few days left in the fiscal year, Congress came together to pass a stop-gap appropriations bill to keep the government running. The legislation will continue funding federal programs, including research funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, at fiscal year 2016 levels through December 9, 2016. However, in order to meet discretionary spending caps, a 0.5 percent reduction across the board would be applied. The CR also includes $1.1 billion in funding to address the Zika virus and $500 million in flood relief for Louisiana and other states. In addition, the 2017 appropriations provisions for military construction and veterans were approved for the full fiscal year.
The "clean" continuing resolution does not include controversial policy riders, but was the subject of criticism because it does not include funding to address water issues in Flint, Michigan. The Flint water issue threatened to derail the CR, but a compromise was struck to fund Flint under the Water Resources Development Act.
The House of Representatives and Senate both passed the continuing resolution (CR) with strong bipartisan support and President Obama has signaled that he will sign it.
On September 26th, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) announced the launching of the Rapid Outcomes from Agricultural Research (ROAR) program. According to FFAR, the ROAR program will provide swift disbursement of research and extension funds in response to new and emerging agricultural pests and pathogens. The new program is designed to accelerate first steps needed to combat unforeseen agricultural emergencies and serve as a bridge to traditional funding.
The program has the potential to help animal agriculture respond to pest and disease emergencies by quickly supporting and delivering science based solutions. Stakeholders are encouraged to develop consortia and enter into an agreement with FFAR. The agreement will lay the groundwork for the rapid review of a potential application for ROAR funding if and when a disaster strikes that threatens the commodity or commodities of interest.
When a disaster arises that affects the commodity of interest, ROAR participants may submit a proposal to address a pest or pathogen outbreak through research and outreach. FFAR will render the decision to fund or not fund a proposal within one week of submission. Program applicants will be responsible for providing funds to match the amount, up to $150,000, requested from the Foundation.
FFAR will hold a webinar on October 21st to share more information about the ROAR program. Additional details, along with webinar registration information can be found by clicking here.
On September 27th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has started a public process to redefine the "healthy" nutrient content claim for food labeling. FDA is considering changes to the definition of "healthy" as a part of an overall plan to provide consumers with information about food choices.
Part of the FDA process is seeking public input on the term "healthy". FDA has issued a Request for Information and is inviting public comment on the term "healthy", generally, and as a nutrient content claim in the context of food labeling and on specific questions contained in this document. FDA has also released a guidance document entitled: Guidance for Industry: Use of the Term "Healthy" in the Labeling of Human Food Products. According to FDA, the purpose of the guidance is to advise manufacturers who wish to use the implied nutrient content claim "healthy" to label their food products as provided by our regulations. It also alerts food manufacturers that FDA intends to exercise enforcement discretion relative to foods that use the implied nutrient content claim "healthy" on their labels which:
- Are not low in total fat, but have a fat profile makeup of predominantly mono and polyunsaturated fats; or
- contain at least ten percent of the Daily Value (DV) per reference amount customarily consumed (RACC) of potassium or vitamin D.
More information on FDA’s efforts to redefine the term “healthy” can be found here.
On September 21st, the United Nations announced a global commitment to address the issue of antibiotic resistance. U.N. member sountries reaffirmed their commitment to develop national action plans on AMR, based on the World Health Organization’s "Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance". U.N. leaders identified the need for stronger systems to monitor drug-resistant infections and the volume of antimicrobials used in humans, animals, and crops, as well as increased international cooperation and funding. Countries are pledging strengthen the regulation of antimicrobials, improve knowledge and awareness, promote best practices and support the development alternatives and new technologies for diagnosis and vaccines.
A copy of the declaration approved by the U.N. can be found here.
On September 21st, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a directive to inspectors regarding what to do in case of an avian flu outbreak. The document guides inspectors through a series of steps to identify infected flocks and mitigate the spread of the disease. Some key points from the directive include:
- USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has responsibility for the critical activities in the event of an outbreak, defines the control areas, and must issue permits for flock movement from control areas
- Public Health Veterinarians (PHVs) are to examine every truck load of birds, from control areas, during ante-mortem inspection
- On-line inspectors are to retain (e.g., hang back) all carcasses exhibiting signs of high path avian influenza (HPAI) for veterinary disposition
- When PHVs suspect that birds or carcasses exhibit clinical signs or lesions consistent with HPAI, they are to stop the establishment from further slaughtering the flock, retain all affected birds, carcasses and parts, and contact the District Office (DO)
- Inspectors are to comply with the same sanitary and hygiene procedures and biosecurity measures that establishments have in place for their personnel
A full copy of the directive can be found here.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack addressed the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) during its meetings on September 8th and 9th. During his remarks, he suggested that the next administration should consider creating a White House food council. Citing the 15 federal agencies with jurisdiction over food and agriculture policy, Vilsack asserted that the establishment of an administration wide council would help facilitate a more coordinated approach to policy. Vilsack cited the precedence of such councils for environmental quality and rural affairs. A White House Food Council could help bring together agencies with producers, processors and others in the food and agriculture sector to foster policies that will strengthen the industry.
Finally, are YOU interested in serving on the FASS Science Policy Committee? To learn more, contact Jamie Ritter at firstname.lastname@example.org.