Annual hiring of an additional 240 agricultural specialists to strengthen U.S. borders and ports of entry and 200 agricultural technicians for administrative and support functions along with 20 new K-9 teams is now authorized by law.

President Trump has signed The Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019, bipartisan legislation authorizing the annual new hiring until a shortage of 700 agricultural inspectors at borders and ports of entry is filled.

The new K-9 teams are being added because they’ve proven effective in detecting illicit fruits, vegetables and animal products that otherwise might be missed in initial inspections.

The U.S.
Continue Reading U.S. beefs up border inspections with more agricultural, food safety expertise

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry late Wednesday voted to favorably report the nomination of Mindy Brashears to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety.

Her nomination may now be considered by the full U.S. Senate for confirmation. That floor vote is expected to occur before the holidays.

Brashears is a professor and director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University. President Donald J. Trump nominated her on May 4 to be the nation’s fifth Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety.

The position became vacant five years ago when Dr. Elisabeth
Continue Reading Senate likely to vote soon on Brashears as USDA’s top food safety official

Senators Pat Roberts, D-KS, and Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, were beaming Tuesday during the first agricultural committee hearing since the Farm Bill passed.

Roberts, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, and Nutrition, was so proud he kept asking to be reminded that the Farm Bill, now in conference, passed the Senate by an 86 to 11 vote. He did not ask how long it has been since the Senate has confirmed a presidential nominee as USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety.

The correct answers for those unasked questions would have been 75 days since President Trump nominated Texas Tech
Continue Reading Senate holds confirmation hearing, but not for key food safety post

Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue thinks it would be an over-reaction for USDA to embargo Brazilian beef because of that country’s federal investigation of meat inspectors being bribed to overlook standards for exported meat.

Former Georgia Gov. Sunny Perdue testified before the Senate ag committee March 23 during his confirmation hearing for the post of secretary of agriculture.
Former Georgia Gov. Sunny Perdue testified before the Senate ag committee March 23 during his confirmation hearing for the post of secretary of agriculture. Photo illustration courtesy of the Senate ag committee.

Perdue responded to questioning by Sen. John Thune, R-SD, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, which lasted about three hours Thursday.

Continue Reading Near confirmation, Perdue says no to Brazilian beef embargo

Agro-terrorism, which has been around as a fear since 9/11, is getting new attention with the introduction in Congress of the Securing our Agriculture and Food Act.

Text of the bill is not yet available, but it is said to include high-risk events involving food, agriculture and livestock. It was jointly introduced into the House and Senate earlier this week by a bipartisan group of lawmakers including some agricultural leaders.

Agro-terrorism risks have brought legislative reaction previously. It’s the reason food production facilities have had to register since 2002, and it’s the reason for the food defense rule in the
Continue Reading Food, agricultural events could get agro-terrorism treatment

Just label It is throwing in the towel. The never-ending campaign by the organic industry’s top political players to force GMO labeling on the entire food industry says its time to move on. After a 63-30 vote late Friday for a national GMO labeling scheme that was opposed by Just Label It, Stonyfield Farm’s Gary Hirschberg, who chairs the organization, issued a statement taking credit for passage of the Senate compromise bill it had opposed to the bitter end. GMO-Labeling-Vermont_406x250“Millions of consumers and hundreds of advocacy organizations have successfully moved America into the 21st Century,” Hirschberg said. He said the
Continue Reading Just Label It takes a victory lap after losing; opts to move on

usenatechamber_406x250A divided U.S. Senate Wednesday could not invoke cloture to bring the Biotechnology Labeling Solutions Bill to vote. The cloture vote, which required 60 for passage, failed by a dozen votes, 48-49. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-KS, would have stopped states from imposing their own labels on foods containing genetically modified ingredients. Roberts says pre-empting the states is required for national uniformity.  He says the alternative is a “wrecking ball” that is going to cost the average family more than $1,000 a year in higher food bills, and upend producers. The bill  would have amended the Agricultural
Continue Reading Senate splits over labeling food with genetically engineered ingredients

Labeling food in interstate commerce might come up enough in U.S. law and regulations for the federal government to claim it’s already pre-empted the subject from the states. However, with a July 1 deadline for compliance with a Vermont law requiring the labeling of food with any ingredients that are genetically modified, Congress now appears to want to be sure the states butt out. USCapitolBuildingMainLast year, a lopsided bipartisan majority in the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Safe and Accurate food Labeling Act by a vote of 275 to 150. It created a federal standard for voluntary labeling of 
Continue Reading Congressional train rolling to pre-empt states on GMO labels

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing Thursday to discuss country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat, which requires that packages sold in the U.S. indicate the country, or countries, where animals were born, raised and slaughtered. “It doesn’t matter if you’re pro-COOL (and many are) or anti-COOL (and many are), you cannot ignore the fact that retaliation is imminent and we must avoid it,” Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) said in his opening statement. He was referring to the tariffs Canada and Mexico plan to place on U.S. goods after winning the final case before the World Trade Organization that the program
Continue Reading Senate Agriculture Committee Mulls Options on COOL

The Senate Agriculture Committee hearing Wednesday on country-of-origin labeling (COOL) and trade retaliation got something new to chew on. On the eve of the first Senate action since the House of Representatives voted to repeal COOL, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the ranking minority member on the committee, circulated a draft bill for voluntary COOL. The Michigan Democrat got some encouragement from Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, but she got the cold shoulder from his House counterpart, Rep. Michael Conway, R-TX. Stabenow_406x250Roberts, who said he consistently opposed COOL “during its failed tenure,” called Stabenow’s draft “a
Continue Reading Michigan Senator Offers Voluntary COOL Draft for Discussion Purposes