Washington outlook - July 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018
Posted by: Lauren Brey
By Sarah Hubbart, director, and Kerry Lynch, manager of communications and federal affairs, Michael Torrey Associates
Edge staff and members traveled to Washington, D.C., in June to participate in a National Council of Farmer Cooperatives conference. While in Washington, they shared Edge’s priorities with Capitol Hill offices and discussed ag workforce challenges with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Time is running out for action on legislative priorities this year as Congress looks ahead to the August recess and midterm elections. Forward movement has been made on the farm bill, set to expire Sept. 30. Immigration has recently dominated the conversation in D.C. and across the country, but no resolution has been reached. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced action in July for two new food labeling issues that could impact the dairy community.
Farm bill: Both the House and Senate have approved their versions of the farm bill. Most recently, the Senate passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 by a bipartisan vote of 86-11. Next, a conference committee will be chosen to work out the differences between the two bills. The final version must be approved by the House and Senate again before going to the president for his signature. Both versions of the farm bills include important priorities for dairy farmers, including support for market development programs and a strong farm safety net. The current farm bill will expire on Sept. 30 unless Congress passes a new bill or extends current law. Visit voiceofmilk.com to read Edge’s statement on passage of the Senate farm bill.
Click here to read Edge’s recent media statement on passage of the Senate farm bill.
Immigration: The House Freedom Caucus forced a vote on the Securing America’s Future Act (SAFA) immigration bill championed by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., in exchange for revisiting the farm bill. Among other things, SAFA included a new year-round ag guestworker program. However, SAFA and a second “compromise” measure, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, failed on the House floor due to opposition by Democrats and moderate Republicans.
Additional immigration proposals are not anticipated in the near future, although some House members continue to push for standalone legislation to address agriculture's workforce needs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it is working with the Department of Labor on reforms to the H-2A program, but that program will not be opened up to year-round workers. Edge continues to work with the national Agriculture Workforce Coalition and other stakeholders to advocate for a long-term solution for a sustainable rural workforce.
Read more here.
FDA food labeling: The FDA will collect feedback on two issues related to food labeling this month. First, FDA is holding a public meeting on July 12 to discuss the future of so-called cultured or lab-grown meat. These products could be introduced in the marketplace soon, but it is unclear if FDA or USDA (or a combination of both) will have regulatory jurisdiction. The question of whether these new products should fall under the traditional definition of “meat” has split the beef industry.
Read more here.
FDA also announced a multi-year “Nutrition Innovation Strategy” and will collect input during a meeting on July 26. Some of the key priorities FDA has identified for this initiative include modernizing the standards of identity for foods and consideration of a standard icon to denote the claim "healthy" on food labels.
Read more here.
Edge is engaged in these long-term processes because of the role dairy farmers play in the beef supply chain. This also represents another opportunity to highlight the need for accurate product labeling.