Washington Roundup – September 2018
Farm Bill Conference Continues as Deadline Approaches
The “big four” leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees continue to meet in an attempt to complete the 2018 Farm Bill before current authorities expire at the end of September. The negotiations are moving slowly due to disagreements over nutrition programs and the overall spending for the various parts of the bill. President Trump weighed-in on the farm bill situation by sending a tweet critical of negotiators who oppose stronger work requirements for nutrition program participants.
With only a few legislative days remaining in September, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that a final Farm Bill package will be completed by the end of the month. If Congress does not reach agreement by September 30th, they could let authorities lapse for a short period of time if they believe a deal is likely to be achieved quickly (which has happened before) or pass an extension of the current Farm Bill to allow for additional time to finish the legislation. Chairman Roberts has indicated that an extension would be needed, if a new Farm Bill is not in place by December to ensure that producer can make plans for the upcoming planting season.
Policy Riders Slowing Down Agriculture Appropriations “Minibus”
House and Senate Appropriators are working feverishly to complete a series of “minibus” appropriations packages before the end of the fiscal year. The four-bill package funding the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as the IRS and environmental programs has hit some policy roadblocks that have prevented completion. The House version includes several controversial policy riders that are being rejected by the Senate. Many of the riders in question deal with interior and environmental policies, but the House is also pressing for agricultural provisions regarding jurisdiction over cell-based meat and blocking public disclosure of data related to food stamp transactions. If the minibus is not completed by the end of September, Congress is expected to pass a continuing resolution that would run until early December.
Congress Weighs in on USDA Relocation Plans for NIFA and ERS
Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow of the Senate Agriculture Committee sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Purdue expressing concerns with the Department’s proposal to relocate the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Economic Research Service (ERS) outside the national capital region and to realign ERS under the Office of the Chief Economist. The letter requests USDA to respond to 12 questions related to the proposed relocation and the potential impacts of such a move. The questions raised echo the concerns from the scientific community letter that ASAS co-signed to USDA in early September.
The scientific community continues its outreach to USDA and Congress regarding NIFA and ERS. ASAS co-sponsored a webinar that took place on September 20th. The webinar featured comments from former REE Under Secretaries and ERS Administrators. A recording of the webinar will be posted on the website.
FDA Announces New Action Plan for Antibiotic Stewardship
On September 14th, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced a five-year action plan for supporting antimicrobial stewardship in veterinary settings. The action plan builds upon FDA’s efforts to eliminate production uses of medically important antimicrobials and to bring all remaining therapeutic uses of these drugs under the oversight of licensed veterinarians. The plan also supports the judicious use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals and policy that medically important antimicrobial drugs should only be used for the treatment, control or prevention of specific diseases.