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House and Senate Committees Advance Farm Bill

On Tuesday, May 14th, the Senate Agriculture Committee met to consider its version of the Farm Bill, S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013. The Senate Farm Bill is very similar to the package that was passed by the Senate in 2012. The text of the bill, along with a summary can be found on the Senate Agriculture Committee website. Continue reading

USDA Threatens to Shut Down Meat Inspections over Budget Sequestration

Congress and the Obama Administration have yet to reach agreement on how to deal with the looming budget sequestration that is schedule to take effect at the beginning of March 2013.

The across-the-board budget cuts resulting from sequestration would impact agencies across the federal government, including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’ Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). FSIS provides critical inspection services to meat and poultry slaughter, packing and warehousing facilities.

USDA officials recently stated that one of the impacts of budget sequestration could be the furloughing of FSIS inspectors for up to two weeks. This would effectively shut down the nation’s meat and poultry facilities. It has been estimated that such a shutdown would cause $10 billion in production losses and $400 million in lost wages.

In response to USDA’s threat to close down inspections, industry has taken a strong stance that FSIS can find the required savings without furloughing inspectors and that the agency has a legal obligation to continue inspections.

The posturing by USDA is seen by many as part of the gamesmanship between the Obama Administration and Congress as the two sides struggle to reach an agreement. USDA has since clarified that furloughing inspectors would be a “last option,” but may be required for FSIS to comply with the budget sequestration.

GCCA Joins Groups in Opposition to FDA and FSIS User Fees

President Obama released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2014 on April 10, 2013.  Obama’s budget proposes new user fees to be collected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) that would impact the cold storage industry.  GCCA is joining like-minded groups in opposition to the proposed fees. Continue reading

FDA Extends Comment Period for FSMA Rules

On April 18, 2013, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the comment period for the proposed rules on Preventive Controls and Produce will be extended for an additional 120 days.  The original deadline was May 16, 2013.  It is anticipated that the new deadline will be in September, but a new official date has yet to be released.  FDA had received a number of requests to extend the deadline, including a letter from food and agriculture organizations co-signed by GCCA.  The addition time will enable interested parties to further examine the proposed rules and provide better feedback to the agency.  GCCA has already provided oral comments to FDA regarding the proposed rule on preventive controls and will also be submitting written comments.

Comparison of SQF Code, Level 2 and FDA Preventive Controls Rule

The SQF Institute recently contracted with Leavitt Partners Global Food Safety Solutions to compare the elements of SQF Level 2 certification (specifically Modules 2 and 11) to the requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed Preventive Controls rule. Companies will want to stay abreast of the ongoing rule-making process, the issuance of the final rule, as well as new FDA regulations as the agency continues to implement FSMA to ensure that they are ready to fully Page implement the final preventive controls rules while continuing to meet SQF requirements. Beginning this week in Chicago, the SQF Institute will hold a series of Information Days to augment the new study. MORE

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