Issue Update: 2018 Farm Bill

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently interviewed by Linda Brekke of the Linder Farm Network to provide an update regarding the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill.

The first segment touches upon the dynamics surrounding getting the bill to the House floor and is :56 in duration.

The second segment highlights potential amendments expected during floor consideration and is 1:04 in duration.

The third segment provides an overview of the bill’s status in the United States Senate and is 1:19 in duration.

Dynamics of getting the bill to the House Floor

Potential amendments expected during floor consideration

Farm bill’s status in the United States Senate

For additional information regarding these and other issues, please contact RDL & Associates at rdlassociatesga@gmail.com.

 

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Agriculture Moves to GMO Food Labeling With Exemptions (via CQ)

The United States moved closer Friday to mandatory labeling of foods that contain genetically modified crops or ingredients with the publication of a draft labeling rule, which uses “bioengineered” in place of the commonly used GMO term.

The proposed rule is the outcome of a multi-year fight between pro mandatory labeling groups that argued consumers have a right to information about the foods they eat and food manufacturers and farm organizations that fought mandatory labeling as scientifically unsound and part of a plan to stigmatize GMO products. Comments are due July 3 with a final rule due July 29.

The resulting federal law (PL 114-216) in 2016 gave partial wins for each side. The law gives a victory to backers of federal mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods, while labeling opponents defeated efforts to require all food companies to put readily readable information on packages. Food companies and farm groups also got a federal prohibition on states writing their own mandatory labeling laws but not the voluntary labeling they sought at the federal level.

The law gives the Agriculture Department the task of establishing the process for disclosing information for foods and ingredients for human consumption produced through bioengineering. The law and the rule do not use the term genetically modified organism, opting instead for the term bioengineered as a more neutral phrase.

The proposed rule gives small food manufacturers — as defined through rule-making — the option of providing information to consumers via websites or telephone numbers. Larger companies have three options for telling consumers if they are buying a GMO food product: a label on packages, a symbol to be developed by USDA or bar codes, or other digital means that consumers can scan with smartphones.

The Environmental Working Group, one of the organizations that pushed for federal labeling, said the rule falls short.

“Consumers deserve a simple disclosure that covers all genetically engineered foods, including sugars, oils and the products of modern biotechnology,” Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs, said in a statement Thursday after USDA announced it was releasing the rule. “They should not have to fumble with their cell phones or only get half the story.”

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which fought state ballots on mandatory labeling and for a federal ban on such laws, said the option of providing information digitally is beneficial to consumers.

“Digital disclosure by scanning an electronic link on a package is one of the ways to provide the bioengineered ingredient information required by the federal law,” the association said in a statement.

Devil’s in the Details

The proposed rule would exempt from labeling certified organic foods and foods served in restaurants, bars, food stands, cafeterias or ready-to-eat foods sold in stores for consumption at the location or to-go. Milk and meat from animals fed grain from genetically modified crops would be excluded from labeling.

Multi-ingredient foods that contain genetically modified ingredients that are not the predominant ingredients would not be labeled. The draft rule offers an example of a canned ham in genetically modified corn syrup as not requiring labeling because the ham is the main ingredient.

The rule also would define very small food manufacturers as those with annual receipts of less than $2.5 million and exempt them from labeling requirements, but the Agriculture Department also is seeking public reaction to setting the revenue threshold at either $500,000 or $5 million.

The public is asked to weigh in on the Agriculture Department’s plan to adopt “without further interpretation on what bioengineering means” the definition of bioengineering included in the 2016 law.

The law defines bioengineered foods as those containing genetic material that has been modified through DNA techniques and modifications that “could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.’’ The definition is unclear on whether it applies to ingredients or crops produced through newer techniques such as gene editing.

Much of the draft rule offers the public several options to consider and to offer comment on.

For example, the public is asked to comment on potential exemptions for:

  • Food with an ingredient that contains a bioengineered substance that is inadvertent or technically unavoidable and accounts for no more than 5 percent of the specific ingredient by weight.
  • Food with an ingredient that contains a bioengineered substance that is inadvertent or technically unavoidable, and accounts for no more than 0.9 percent of the specific ingredient by weight.
  • Food in which a manufacturer has decided to use a bioengineered substance as long as it is not more than 5 percent of the total weight of the product.

Horse industry split on bill to introduce more federal regulation (via Capitol Solutions)

It’s a cool spring morning just about dawn on the backside of Churchill Downs, eight days before the Derby. Exercise riders on gleaming racehorses trot past the barns and onto the track for a workout. Some horses have already finished and are being hosed down…they’re so warm, steam is rising off their backs when the water hits.

Here in Kentucky, the horses galloping past are subject to a laundry list of regulations. There are drugs they can’t ever take — like anabolic steroids — and medications they can. There are rules on how the horses are tested and for what and when. If an owner takes his horse from Kentucky onto the other legs of the Triple Crown in Maryland and New York, the major rules are the same, but there are some variations.

And that’s one of the goals of the Horseracing Integrity Act, most recently introduced in 2017 by Kentucky Congressman Andy Barr: to bring all of the country’s 38 racing jurisdictions under the same set of rules.

“We believe that uniform medication rules will not only ensure the fairness and integrity of the sport but it will also help ensure the competitiveness of American thoroughbred racing around the world,” Barr said.

But while just about everyone in the industry can agree that uniformity is important, they all disagree about how to get there.

Eric Hamelback is the CEO of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association; his group is a vocal opponent of Barr’s bill.

“Obviously, uniformity is something we all look to try to achieve,” he said. “But clarify uniformity.”

Hamelback said right now, in the United States, racing jurisdictions agree on the major rules. But there are variations in factors like medication withdrawal time, and who administers drugs to horses.

He said it’s analogous to vehicle laws.

“I would ask you, is there a state in our union that it’s OK to drive drunk or intoxicated, can you name one?” he asked. “No. but are the speed limits the same in every state? They are not.”

Lasix: A ‘Drug’ Or A ‘Medication?’

If you ask the people on the front lines — the ones who actually deal with the horses — they’ll say, sure uniformity is great. But Barr’s bill would do something else, too: ban the administration of a drug called Lasix on race days. And that’s a deal breaker for many.

As the top Derby contenders hit the track for a workout at Churchill Downs, trainers gather on a wooden platform to watch.

“The number one issue is eliminating race day Lasix,” said Buff Bradley. He’s a trainer, who also owns and breeds horses near Frankfort.

Here’s what Lasix is supposed to do: it keeps racehorses from experiencing a condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. That’s when the intense exertion from a race causes bleeding in a horse’s lungs.

Horses that have this condition are called “bleeders,” and in Kentucky, every time this bleeding gushes out of their nostrils,they can’t race for a set amount of time. Horses that bleed four times in a year are permanently disqualified. So there’s a pretty big incentive for trainers to make sure their horses don’t bleed — ever.

“And I don’t like calling Lasix a drug,” Bradley said. “It’s a medication.”

That’s why in the U.S., horses are allowed to get a shot of Lasix four hours before they run. And trainer Ian Wilkes says these days, almost every horse gets it as a preventative measure.

“The cruelty of seeing a horse gush, you don’t want to see that,” he said. “So my thing with Lasix, is there’s no question.”

But Lasix has a side effect, too. It’s a diuretic, and taking it makes a horse drop about twenty-five pounds of water weight. This, some say, can give a horse an advantage during a race or potentially mask other serious health conditions. Shawn Smeallie is the executive director of the Coalition for Horseracing Integrity— a group advocating for the bill.

“It definitely is a medication for horses that bleed,” he said. “But I don’t know what you call it for horses that use it that don’t bleed. So clearly, the fact that a first-time Lasix user, you put it in the Daily Racing Form right, to me shows there’s a performance-enhancing value to this.”

And he points out: race-day Lasix is banned in every major racing jurisdiction outside the United States.

States’ Rights

Besides the Lasix issue, the bill’s supporters say it’s necessary to make sure people are confident in America’s horse racing — and betting — industries. It would move regulation of testing for banned substances under the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees testing of Olympic athletes.

But opponents say it’s unnecessary. That it’s an unfunded mandate. That the industry itself is making progress towards uniformity, and that what’s really necessary is getting all of the country’s testing laboratories on the same page.

“States don’t want to give up their rights and that’s what it really boils down to,” said Terri Burch, the interim director of the Equine Industry program at the University of Louisville. She said the tradition-steeped industry has always been resistant to change.

“Kentucky wants to be able to regulate the way Kentucky wants to. Maryland wants to regulate the way Maryland wants to. New York wants to regulate the way New York wants to,” she said.

A number of industry groups have lined up to oppose the bill, as well as Churchill Downs, Incorporated and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

But there are a number of industry groups and prominent horse trainers that have come out in support, too. That includes the companies that own the Pimlico and Belmont racetracks: the second and third legs of the Triple Crown. 

And Barr’s bill also has something else: bipartisan support. The Horseracing Integrity Act has more than 100 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, though none of Kentucky’s other congressmen have signed on. It’s been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Barr says he believes a hearing is likely soon.

Link: http://www.capitolsolutions.net/horse-industry-split-bill-introduce-federal-regulation/