March 3, 2017
On January 8, USDA announced that it is delaying implementation of the organic animal welfare regulations for an additional 60 days. That puts the new implementation date at May 19, 2017. The move is consistent with the Trump Administration’s policy of freezing late-term Obama regulations pending a review. The move was applauded by many livestock and poultry groups who have been critical of the regulation. A copy of the Federal Register notice can be found here.
In addition, the Trump Administration has delayed the effective date of controversial Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) regulations that the Obama Administration published intended to provide protections to poultry growers in their relationships with processors. The interim final rule’s effective date is now April 22, 2017. The comment periods for two related proposed rules have also been extended until February 21, 2017. The Federal Register notice can be found here.
Both of these moves are consistent with the Trump Administration’s desire to address regulatory burdens facing agriculture. While the delays are relatively short-term, they will give the new administration additional time to review the regulations and determine if they want to further delay or potentially change the regulations.
On February 3, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that it had removed inspection data related to the Animal Welfare Act from its public website. APHIS cited an ongoing review of its information posting practices as a key factor in the decision. According to APHIS, in the future, the agency will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication. APHIS will also review and redact, as necessary, the lists of licensees and registrants under the AWA, as well as lists of designated qualified persons (DQPs) licensed by USDA-certified horse industry organizations. A copy of the APHIS announcement can be found here.
The removal of the animal welfare information drew sharp criticism from the Humane Society and other animal welfare organizations. The Humane Society and PETA have filed lawsuits seeking to have APHIS return the information to its website. In addition, shortly after APHIS removed the information, a watchdog group posted much of the data to a site at memoryhole2.org.
Since the original removal of information, APHIS has reposted some of the inspection data. APHIS has indicated that it is continuing to review the removed data and will be reposting information that is deemed appropriate for the website.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the University of Maryland sponsored a meeting on February 15 to 16 titled “Tactical Sciences for the Protection of the U.S. Agricultural Enterprise: NIFA’s Call to Conversation”. FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel participated in the meeting along with approximately 70 representatives from government, universities, and industry. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss strategies related to advancing the tactical sciences.
Participants considered issues including:
- What economic, political, social, technological, and scientific trends/forces will impact security of the American food system enterprise in the next 10 years?
- What efforts are currently working related to the Tactical Sciences, and where are opportunities for improvement?
- What should a successful approach and strategy for the Tactical Sciences look like moving forward?
There was a strong consensus among the participants that increased coordination and support for the Tactical Sciences is important for securing the nation’s food production system. The group also identified the need to develop a shared vision and message related to Tactical Sciences to communicate the importance to external and internal audiences. More information about the event can be found here.
The Senate Agriculture Committee held its first Farm Bill field hearing on February 23 on the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan, Kansas. The committee heard testimony from 21 witnesses across three panels. Animal agriculture was represented by dairy, beef, and pork producers, and several of the witnesses from production agriculture mentioned the importance of agricultural research. In addition, witnesses from the beef and pork industries discussed the importance of developing a foot and mouth disease vaccine bank and supporting efforts to strengthen science-based programs to help prevent and mitigate impacts of animal disease.
The hearing represents the beginning of the 2018 Farm Bill process in the Senate, with many more hearings to come. The House has also initiated hearings and is beginning its preparations for the next Farm Bill. More information on the Senate field hearing, including a full witness list and testimony, can be found here.
A bipartisan group of 11 Members of Congress, led by Rep. Calvert (R-CA) and Rep. Titus (D-NV), wrote to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in December 2016 requesting a review of federal animal research. The letter requests a review of the accountability and transparency of intramural animal research conducted by federal agencies. The letter references the allegations of mistreatment at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, as well as NIH research on chimpanzees and other agency studies involving dogs. The study is expected to cover issues including:
- Which federal agencies are conducting animal research
- Systems for tracking and reporting animal research, including any instances of noncompliance
- Amount of money spent on animal research and number of animals involved
The effort is being driven by the White Coat Waste Project, which is an organization opposed to federal funding of animal research. The timeline for the GAO study has not been announced. A copy of the letter to GAO can be found here.