READ the NAFB’s National Ag News as heard inside the BARN for Fri, Dec 20th…

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“FDA Plans to Change FSMA Proposed Rules that Affect Farmers”

The Food and Drug Administration will propose revised rule language on two of the proposed rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act that affect farmers. FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael Taylor says the agency believes this decision was made in response to the careful consideration of many people involved in supplying our food and is critical to fulfilling a commitment to getting them right. The plan is to issue revised rules for the proposed rules on produce safety and preventive controls for human food by early next summer. Among other things – the changes will encompass water quality standards and testing and standards for using manure and compost. FDA will seek comments on the revised sections of the rule.

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“Positive Responses to FDA Decision”

The American Feed Industry Association and United Fresh both responded positively to the FDA’s plan to make changes to proposed Food Safety Modernization Act rules. According to AFIA President and CEO Joel Newman – the decision shows the agency’s recognition of the complexity of the rules and their willingness to take the extra step to ensure the final rules will be as practical as possible for implementation by the industry. He says AFIA acknowledges FDA’s intent to make these rules well suited for everyone involved in various industry segments. Newman says this is a positive sign for the future of the Food Safety Modernization Act. United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology David Gombas says his group is encouraged that FDA took the extensive input received from produce farmers and others in the agricultural sector on the proposed Produce Safety and Preventive Controls rules seriously. He says United Fresh appreciates the agency’s willingness to rethink these provisions and propose requirements that are more science and risk-based. Gombas says it’s critical that FDA get these FSMA rules right – and United Fresh believes this is a step in the right direction.

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“Two Reports Cite Food Inspection Weaknesses at USDA”

Pew Charitable Trusts has released a study that claims recent salmonella outbreaks that sickened hundreds of people underscore serious weaknesses in USDA’s oversight of poultry plants. Sandra Eskin – Director of Pew’s Food Safety Campaign – says the system we have in place wasn’t working when more than five-hundred people get sick from a food-borne illness outbreak. Consumer Reports also published an investigation Thursday that suggests lapses at USDA have contributed to the prevalence of potentially harmful bacteria in store-bought chicken. The investigation was funded by Pew. USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service says the reports confirm the need for measures already underway at FSIS to prevent food-borne illness. Mike Brown – National Chicken Council President – notes pathogen testing shows rates of salmonella and E.coli have declined in poultry plants over the last decade. He says eliminating bacteria entirely is always the goal – but simply isn’t feasible in reality.

Pew and Consumer Reports called for USDA to be more aggressive in pushing for recalls and alerting the public to potential outbreaks. They believe Congress should pass legislation to give USDA mandatory recall authority. Currently, USDA can’t force recalls like the Food and Drug Administration can. Pew also said the outbreaks create a new urgency for USDA to focus on prevention efforts – and recommended the department abandon its practice of letting plants know when pathogen testing will be performed. Consumer Reports called on USDA to abandon plans to finalize a new poultry inspection system. But according to a department spokesman – the concerns raised in both reports offer further evidence the new system should move forward as planned. A statement said the additional requirements in the modernization proposal – such as microbial testing, contamination prevention and stronger food safety inspection activities – will allow FSIS to make significant progress in reducing illnesses.

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“Brazil Begins Steps for Retaliation Over Lack of Cotton Payments”

In January – Brazil’s Trade Ministry has announced it will start a series of public consultations described as a preparatory act for an eventual retaliation. This is in response to the end of U.S. payments made to the Brazilian Cotton Institute. The payments were part of an agreement between the U.S. and Brazil after Brazil won a complaint filed with the World Trade Organization. The WTO rules Brazil had the right to retaliate against the U.S. because of unfair subsidies to cotton growers. The payments stopped after Congress failed to pass a farm bill that would fund the payments. According to the Ministry – a work group is preparing a list of possible measures to implement and will complete its preparations by the end of February. Brazilian Cotton Institute President Haroldo Cunha says they don’t believe retaliation is the best way to get the U.S. to resume payments – but is the only way they have to react. His hope is that any measures will get the attention of the U.S. government and get them talking about the issue.

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“First Forest Service Fee Waiver Day of 2014 Offered in January”

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day – the U.S. Forest Service will waive fees at most of its day-use recreation sites on January 20th. This date will mark the first of several fee waiver days and offered by the agency in 2014. President’s Day weekend in February, National Get Outdoors Day in June, National Public Lands Day in September and Veterans Day weekend in November are also scheduled fee-free days. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell says the hope is that these free days will offer an incentive to all people to visit any of the 193-million acres of land held in trust for their enjoyment and use. USDA notes no fees are charged at any time on 98-percent of national forests and grasslands – and approximately two-thirds of developed recreation sites in national forests and grasslands can be used for free. Recreation dot gov (www.recreation.gov) is a resource you can check to find out if your destination charges a fee.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service