Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Farmers and Ranchers Need Government Support, Not Opposition, Farm Bureau Tells Congress


                                                     
Washington, D.C, April 27, 2016 – Low commodity prices, tightening credit, expensive land and rising costs for expenses such as seed and fertilizer will lead to financial losses for many farmers and ranchers this year, Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert, Jr. told a House subcommittee today.

Testifying on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Illinois Farm Bureau, Guebert encouraged Congress to help farm and ranch families endure what observers agree will be a difficult year. He said Illinois farmers who produce row crops have been hit hard along with the rest of the farm economy.

“Over the last 18 months we have seen our working capital erode over 25 percent,” Guebert said. “Our equity is fading into the sunset. Indexed to inflation, the economic return for Illinois farmers after accounting for family expenses is currently at its lowest level since 1972. All of this has proven to be a very steep learning curve for a new generation of younger and less experienced farmers who entered the business when times were better.”

The emergence of global food markets in recent years has made already volatile commodity markets even less stable than before.

“Commodity prices used to be more predictable,” Guebert said. “They were primarily influenced by regional and national factors. Just in the past two weeks we’ve seen a $1.30 a bushel increase in soybean prices because of rain during harvest in Brazil, and then overnight on April 22 a drop of 22 cents a bushel. Farmers and ranchers are price takers, whether on the input or commodity side of the equation.”

Many government programs have helped farm families, but others have hindered the wellbeing of those who raise the food, fuel and fiber Americans depend on every day, Guebert said.

On the positive side:
Congressional agriculture leaders have protected the farm bill’s safety net and risk management tools to help farmers and ranchers cope with market volatility.

Congress has bolstered the farm economy by supporting significant transportation projects to improve major waterways and make driver licensing more practical and easier to comply with.

The Environmental Protection Agency has taken a flexible approach on licensing dicamba herbicide formulations.

The President’s Task Force on Pollinators has recognized that beekeepers and farmers need one another and allowed them to work together to preserve pollinators rather than imposing a solution from the outside.

Unfortunately, not all government actions have been so benign:

Proponents of mandatory labeling for products that include genetically modified ingredients have pushed their anti-science agenda in Congress to the detriment of farmers and consumers alike.

The nation’s H-2A visa program for agricultural workers remains inefficient and impractical for most farmers.

Compliance with the Affordable Care Act remains confusing and difficult for small seasonal employers such as farmers and ranchers.

EPA is increasingly restricting pesticides and herbicides without proper scientific evidence for its positions.

The U.S. Forest Service recently proposed that ranchers surrender their water rights in exchange for the ability to graze on federal lands. The USFS later withdrew the proposal, but this remains a topic of discussion among environmental groups.

“The world population will continue to grow,” Guebert told lawmakers. “American farmers have proven time and time again we produce the food, fiber and fuel the world needs. Please don’t restrict, limit or constrain our ability to provide what consumers around the world need.”

Guebert is a member of the AFBF board and executive committee. His testimony can be found here: www.fb.org/tmp/uploads/Richard Guebert-Testimony.pdf.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Culver’s to Fund Trips to FFA Convention


PRAIRIE DU SAC, Wis. – April 26, 2016 – FFA members across the United States–all 629,367 of them–will have the opportunity to win money toward a trip for their chapter to the 2016 National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis, October 19-22. From celebrations to professional development and educational opportunities, this four-day event gives more than 60,000 students the chance to grow their chapters, their friendships and their own potential. This year, Culver’s hopes to make it possible for even more students to attend the convention by funding three chapters’ trips.
Hosted by Culver’s, the Second Annual FFA Essay Contest invites FFA members to write an essay to enter for the chance to be one of the chapters that Culver’s helps send to the convention. The top three essay writers will receive $7,500, $2,500 and $2,500, respectively, to help fund their chapters’ trips.
The essay contest is part of Culver’s Thank You Farmers program which recognizes how vital agriculture is to Culver’s success, while providing financial support to young people who want to make a career in agriculture. “Not only is this contest a way to show our support for FFA, but it’s also a great opportunity for Culver’s to hear firsthand from members about so many important agricultural topics,” shared David Stidham, vice president of marketing at Culver’s.
FFA members interested in entering the Second Annual FFA Essay Contest should visit www.culvers.com/essaycontest and submit an essay of 1,000 words or less about how they see modern technology is impacting the agricultural industry and their ag careers. The essay contest ends June 3, 2016, at 5 p.m. CDT, and the winners of the contest will be notified in late June.
Last year’s essay contest prompted members to write about the importance of advocating for agriculture. The winning essay was written by Hailey Hampton, a member of the Mackay, Idaho, FFA chapter, and discussed important things like taking the time to understand and appreciate farmers for all that they do. You can tag along with her chapter’s 12-day, 15-state trip to Louisville here.
To learn more about Culver’s efforts to support the next generation of America’s farmers, visit www.culvers.com/farmers.

THE AMERICAN PIZZA COMMUNITY SERVED A SLICE OF SMALL BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE TO POLICYMAKERS AT ANNUAL FLY-IN


Coalition Members Discussed Industry Priorities with Legislators in Washington

Washington, D.C., April 26, 2016 – Members of The American Pizza Community (APC) were on Capitol Hill on April 13th and 14th talking to legislators about policies that affect pizza stores, owners and employees.  The fly-in marked the fifth time small business franchise owners representing Domino’s, Godfather’s, Hungry Howie’s, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, as well as representatives from supplier partner Tomato Paradise Kitchen, came to Washington, D.C. to meet with Members of Congress and their staff – in total, more than 130 congressional offices.

Pizza franchise owners discussed the economic impact of the pizza industry, including the fact that pizza is a $38 billion industry in the U.S. that creates jobs for more than a million people.

Jordan Dorsch, a Papa John’s franchisee with 23 stores in Florida, participated in his first fly-in and met with 8 Members of Congress and discussed a range of issues.  “For pizza store owners, there are a number of initiatives that would severely inhibit the ability of small businesses to grow and create jobs for people in our community,” said Dorsch. “With our meetings last week, I saw first-hand why it’s important for Congress to hear directly from constituents about the impact legislation will have on us.”

Current legislation directly affecting the pizza industry includes:
The need to conduct a comprehensive economic study on the impact of mandatory overtime expansion before recent rule changes proposed by the Department of Labor take effect. The APC supports the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act (S. 2707 / H.R. 4773).
Addressing the National Labor Relation Board’s harmful joint employer rule that will destroy the relationship between independent franchisees and franchisors. The APC supports the Protecting Local Business Opportunity Act (S. 2015 / H.R. 3459).
Reforming the “one size fits all” menu labeling regulation imposed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which calls for in-store nutrition labeling boards by allowing sensible, cost‐effective solutions for nutrition disclosure by requiring that pizza stores make the information available online.  Ninety percent of most major pizza chains take pizza orders remotely. The APC supports the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (S. 2217) that was passed in the US House last fall (H.R. 2017).
Repealing the mandated Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as diverting more crop land for corn’s ethanol use has led to unprecedented high food cost for consumers.  The RFS has led directly to margin squeezes for pizza operators costing $18,000/quick service restaurant annually.  The APC supports the RFS Repeal Act (H.R. 703) or a limit to the corn ethanol mandate in the RFS Reform Act (H.R. 704) and the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act (S. 577).

“It was a terrific experience to represent my fellow franchisees, our brand and our industry in Washington D.C.,” said Chris Reisch, Domino’s franchisee based in Lexington, Kentucky. “The opportunity for face time with members and staffers to discuss topics that are critical to our industry, and us as small business owners within our communities, was invaluable.”

Monday, April 25, 2016

Protesters Scale Iconic Six Story NYC Pepsi Landmark; Drop 100’ Banner Demanding Snack Food Giant Cut Conflict Palm Oil

:

Rainforest Action Network calls on PepsiCo to urgently address its association with rampant deforestation and widespread labor rights violations on Indonesian palm oil plantations.

Action comes a week before Pepsi’s annual shareholder meeting and just days after the UN signing of the Paris Agreement, highlighting the connection between deforestation and climate change.

New York - Early this morning, activists with Rainforest Action Network (RAN) scaled the iconic Pepsi sign in Gantry State Park along the East River in Queens and dropped a 100 x 15 foot banner calling on snack food giant PepsiCo to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from its supply chains.

Today’s action is the latest escalation in the three-year campaign to pressure the company to address the egregious human rights abuses and deforestation in its palm oil supply chain and commit to using only responsibly produced palm oil for all its globally branded products. While many of PepsiCo’s competitors have adopted aggressive timelines to source only responsible palm oil, PepsiCo has continued with a ‘business as usual’ timeline of 2020, positioning the company as a laggard among its peers.

"Pepsi has known for over three years about major environmental and human rights violations in its palm oil supply chain, but the company has fallen short and continues to drag its feet instead of taking the kind of decisive action needed to address this urgent problem," said Robin Averbeck, senior campaigner with Rainforest Action Network (RAN). “Every day Pepsi delays cleaning up its palm oil problem is another day when countless plantation workers continue to suffer under brutal labor conditions, the last Sumatran orangutan and tiger habitat continues to fall and massive carbon emissions continue to pour into the atmosphere from burning rainforests.”

For nearly ten years, RAN has been targeting the destruction of rainforests, severe climate impacts and human rights abuses that accompany palm oil plantations. The exponential expansion of these plantations has made Southeast Asia ground zero for deforestation and carbon emissions (from the systematic draining of carbon rich peat swamps and intentional burning of rainforests). RAN launched its Snack Food 20 campaign to highlight some of the largest snack food brands on the planet that have been driving the demand for cheap palm oil and creating this environmental and human rights disaster.

PepsiCo is the world’s largest globally distributed snack food company and the biggest remaining brand among the Snack Food 20 that has failed to put forward a comprehensive responsible palm oil policy. PepsiCo’s current palm oil policy has a ‘loophole the size of Indonesia’ in that it does not require compliance from its joint venture partner Indofood, which produces all Pepsi branded snack foods in Indonesia.

“The time for excuses and half measures is over,” said Ginger Cassady, Forest Program Director at Rainforest Action Network. “Pepsi is a globally influential, multibillion dollar brand. It has both the power and the resources to tackle the palm oil crisis head on to drive real change through its suppliers down to the forest floor where it is so desperately needed. All that’s needed is the will to do the right thing. Continuing with business as usual is simply no longer acceptable.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

145 House Members Demand Answers from EPA on Anti-Farmer Campaign EPA funds used in anti-farmer campaign in Washington State



Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX), and Rep. Brad Ashford (D-NE) were joined by 142 Members on a bipartisan letter to the
Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy. The Members request answers on EPA Region 10’s funding of whatsupstream.com website and advocacy campaign in Washington State that attempts to influence legislators for greater regulation of farmers and ranchers.
Rep. Newhouse: “Federal law is clear, and the EPA knows better than to be engaged in the misuse of taxpayer dollars for anti-farmer publicity campaigns that lobby for more regulations. Despite previous EPA violations of federal laws pertaining to funding propaganda, advocacy, and lobbying efforts, it is troubling that the EPA has allowed taxpayer funds to be used to attack farmers. The EPA must be held accountable to cooperate fully with oversight investigations and to end the pattern of taxpayer-funded lobbying efforts.”
Chairman Conaway: “This is one more example of the lack of appropriate oversight by EPA. I applaud Rep. Newhouse and many of my colleagues for holding EPA accountable for the unlawful misuse of federal funds. America’s farmers and ranchers deserve a government that will defend their cause and work to make sure it has a thriving future. These actions by EPA, however, do the opposite.”
Rep. Ashford: “I am disappointed in the actions taken by the EPA to lobby Washington State legislators using federal funds. With trust in our public officials at an all-time low, it is imperative that our federal agencies respect federal laws. I join my colleagues in the House and Senate to reprimand the EPA and call on them to fully cooperate with investigations. I do not want to see this misuse of federal funds impact other states, such as Nebraska.”
Background:
Earlier this month, the EPA admitted in news reports that it should not have funded a campaign in Washington State known as whatsupstream.com, due to that campaign’s brazen lobbying of state legislators in contravention of federal law. The whatsupstream.com campaign, which was wholly funded by the EPA, used grant awards to fund a website, radio ads, and billboards depicting dead fish and polluted water, urging individuals to contact their state legislators and, “hold the agricultural industry to the same level of responsibility as other industries.” A large, red button on the website labeled, “Take action! We’ve made it simple,” allowed visitors to easily send an email to their state legislators advocating for 100-foot stream buffer zones and other policies. An EPA Inspector General’s report from 2014 had warned that the EPA region responsible for awarding the grant had insufficient protections in place to ensure awardees were not using funds for advocacy, propaganda, and/or lobbying efforts.
According to a December, 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the EPA violated federal lobbying and advocacy laws by funding social media campaigns supporting EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule.
The letter and the list of signers in alphabetical order are included below. For the full text of the letter with footnotes, click here.

House Appropriations Committee Provides $25 Million Increase for USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative


WASHINGTON, DC (April 19, 2016)—Today, the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations approved a $25 million addition for the USDA’s AFRI program for fiscal year 2017. If this funding level holds throughout the federal budget process, AFRI will receive a 15 percent increase in the past two fiscal years.

"The Subcommittee markup shows progress and a step forward in this difficult budget environment," said Thomas Grumbly, president of the SoAR Foundation. "The additional resources are urgently needed to tackle today's agricultural crises like Avian flu and citrus greening disease as well as those that have yet to emerge."

AFRI is the USDA’s premiere source of competitive research funding; proposals are subject to a peer review process to make sure that the key questions in agriculture and food production can be answered. In the last four years, AFRI’s review process identified $3.85 billion in grants worthy of funding. However, with a limited annual budget, the program could only award $950 million—less than a quarter of the science that the program’s expert panels deemed worthy.

The House Appropriations Committee is chaired by Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky. Last year, the increase that AFRI received in FY2016—more than three quarters of all new funding for USDA Research and Education activities that year—brought the annual budget to $350 million.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to Speak on Local and Regional Foods at Food Tank Summit


 
WASHINGTON, April 20 2016 – TODAY, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will discuss USDA’s investment in local and regional foods at the Second Annual Food Tank Summit at American University.

As consumer interest in “buying local” blossomed at the start of the Obama Administration, USDA recognized a growing need to support farmers, small businesses and communities interested in taking advantage of this new market opportunity by making strong investments and creating a number of helpful tools.

Between 2009 and 2015, USDA has invested over $1 billion in more than 40,000 local and regional food businesses/infrastructure projects and made more than $11.5 million available to assist organic operations. As a result, the number of domestic certified organic operations has increased by almost 12 percent between 2014 and 2015.

Today, more than 160,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are selling into local markets, from farmers markets and CSAs to local restaurants, grocery stores and institutions, generating huge returns for local communities.

Industry estimates show U.S. local food sales totaled at least $12 billion in 2014, up from $5 billion in 2008, and experts anticipate that value to hit $20 billion by 2019. These opportunities are helping to drive job growth in agriculture, increase entrepreneurship in rural communities and expand food access and choice.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Donate $1 to FFA and Receive a Scoop of Culver’s Fresh Frozen Custard


Support Agriculture with “Scoops of Thanks Day”
PRAIRIE DU SAC, Wis. – April 12, 2016 – Those interested in supporting local agricultural organizations should stop by Culver’s on Thursday, May 5, 2016, to participate in the second annual Scoops of Thanks Day. In exchange for a $1 donation, guests will receive a single scoop of Fresh Frozen Custard.
Last year, Scoops of Thanks Day raised more than $40,000 in donations for local or state FFA chapters or other agricultural organizations selected by each restaurant.
“Ag organizations, like FFA, do great work by inspiring young people to enter agricultural careers and support the farming industry,” says David Stidham, vice president of marketing for Culver’s. “Scoops of Thanks Day allows Culver’s and our guests to show our gratitude for farmers and the organizations that support them.”
Scoops of Thanks Day is part of Culver’s Thank You Farmers program, which recognizes the hard work and commitment of the farmers who produce wholesome food to feed our nation. To date, the Thank You Farmers initiative has raised nearly one million dollars in support of the National FFA Organization and Foundation, local FFA chapters and a variety of local agricultural organizations. To learn more about the program and how to get involved, visit http://www.culvers.com/farmers/from-gratitude-to-support/.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and Battelle Launch Tool to Fight Food Fraud



Washington, D.C. (April 19, 2016) - Wood pulp in shredded Parmesan cheese. Melamine in baby formula and pet food. Asian catfish sold as grouper. Pomegranate juice cut with grape juice. Unfortunately, instances such as these, commonly called economically motivated adulteration (EMA) are but a few examples of frauds the industry must prevent each and every day.
To help combat this issue, GMA and Battelle have partnered to provide EMAlert™, a secure and intuitive web-based software tool that allows food manufacturers to rapidly analyze and understand their individual, company-specific EMA vulnerabilities in the manufacturing process.
In today’s globally distributed, dynamic food supply network there are inherent risks to the integrity of the supply chain. Some estimate that food fraud costs the world economy $49 billion annually and it has been estimated that about 10 percent of the food we buy is likely adulterated.
“The impact on any particular company can range from minor economic damage to the potential loss of economic viability of the organization”, said Shannon Cooksey, vice president of science policy & regulatory affairs for GMA.  “GMA joined with Battelle, the world’s largest non-profit R&D organization, to develop a better way of prioritizing the actual risks to specific commodity supply chains at any time, so that decision makers can best apply their resources to the vulnerabilities of greatest importance.”
Importantly, EMAlert also provides manufacturers with an effective resource to assist with meeting the requirements of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule. Compliance dates for some businesses begin in September 2016 and requires covered facilities to establish and implement a food safety system that includes an evaluation of hazards that may be introduced for economic gain.
“EMAlert works by providing quantitative estimates of an organization’s vulnerability to EMA for each commodity included in the analysis based on a combination of characteristic attributes and subject matter expert-based weightings”, said Ashley Kubatko, principal research scientist at Battelle. “The approach focuses on predicting fraudulent tendencies similar to approaches used by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to predict terrorist tendencies and preferences.”
By analyzing the attributes that contribute strongly to existing vulnerabilities, food safety and defense professionals may also identify alternative strategies, such as identifying suppliers from a more favorable region of the world or investing in research to develop identity tests for targeted commodities.
"Food manufacturers place great value on the consumer's trust in their brands," said Joseph Scimeca, PhD, Vice President, Global Regulatory & Scientific Affairs at Cargill.  "An issue that compromises the integrity of the food supply chain cannot only lose consumer trust and induce fear amongst the general public, it can represent a threat to public health. Being able to rapidly assess and understand EMA vulnerabilities so that mitigation actions can be prioritized and pursued is essential to protecting both public health and brand reputation."

Scientific Advisory Panel to review health standard to prevent harm to children’s brains



Washington, D.C. – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will convene an independent Scientific Advisory Panel today through Thursday to review health-based limits for the dangerous and widely-used pesticide chlorpyrifos. This decision comes after years of advocacy by farmworker, environmental health and conservation groups, urging EPA to ban chlorpyrifos because of the neurodevelopmental harm it causes to children.

The panel will assess EPA’s proposal to establish a limit that would prevent brain damage to children.

“This is an important step in the right direction,” said Virginia Ruiz of Farmworker Justice. “But it is only a step. Every month and every year, farmworkers and their families are exposed to illegal and dangerous levels of brain-damaging chlorpyrifos. EPA must protect farmworkers and their children—right away.”

“This is a long-awaited step by EPA to do what science and the law demand: outlaw chlorpyrifos to prevent further harms to children’s brains,” said Earthjustice Attorney Patti Goldman, on behalf of a coalition of groups. “It is time to stop the unconscionable brain damage to children, often rural and farmworker children. We applaud EPA for taking this step toward protecting children and farmworkers from this pesticide.”

“It is astonishing that harm to a generation of our children has been ignored and allowed,” said Erik Nicholson of United Farm Workers. “But we are encouraged that EPA is moving toward protecting the next generation, to make sure they don’t suffer the same brain damaging effects of chlorpyrifos that no child and no parent should ever have to fear. We all have a right to a fair chance at a healthy life—this announcement brings that vision a step closer to reality.”
Background: Earthjustice and a broad coalition of partners have been fighting for years to convince the Environmental Protection Agency to ban chlorpyrifos. Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate (OP), a group of pesticides that cause acute pesticide poisonings when people come into contact with them. Organophosphates suppress an enzyme that regulates nerve impulses through the body. When this enzyme – cholinesterase – is inhibited, people can experience a range of symptoms from nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness to seizures, paralysis, and even death in some instances.  Not only do these pesticides put our nation’s farmworkers at risk of pesticide poisonings, but they also contaminate food and drinking water and expose children and other bystanders to toxic drift.

After years of persistent advocacy, EPA finally acknowledged the extensive scientific evidence documenting damage to children’s developing brains, including such alarming deficits as reduced IQ, loss of working memory, and attention disorders. EPA also found that these brain impacts occurred at far lower doses than EPA’s regulatory limit set to prevent acute pesticide poisonings.  We strongly criticized EPA for continuing to use acute pesticide poisoning as its regulatory endpoint in the face of brain damage occurring at far lower doses.  EPA has now developed an exposure limit based on the levels of chlorpyrifos in pregnant women associated with a 2 percent loss in working memory in their children.
 
Pregnant women are currently exposed to 1.5 to 300-plus times this limit from food, and formula-fed infants experience 200 to nearly 1,000 times this limit. EPA has submitted this analysis to its Scientific Advisory Panel for peer review, which will be conducted on April 19-21, 2016. Farmworker Justice, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, Pesticide Action Network, United Farm Workers, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, and Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste are submitting comments supporting EPA’s assessment and urging EPA to act quickly to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos.

Grocers Ask Members of Congress to Consider Common Sense Solutions for Communicating with Shoppers


APRIL 19, 2016 – WASHINGTON, DC – More than 250 representatives of the nation’s food retailers and independent supermarket operators will rally on Capitol Hill this week at the supermarket industry’s annual meeting that affords grocers the opportunity to engage with their respective Members of Congress on priority business issues.  
Food retail members from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the National Grocers Association (NGA), and the Food Industry Association Executives (FIAE) scheduled more than 300 appointments with lawmakers as part of the “Day in Washington” fly-in, advocating for legislation that brings needed common sense clarification to the application of chain restaurant labeling requirements for supermarkets; urging for consideration of a national labeling standard for GMO ingredients; and seeking governmental support to mitigate fraudulent transactions resulting in unprecedented chargebacks on chip cards.
FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin said, “Our ‘Day in Washington’ is witnessing its highest attendance in recent years and the increased participation is testament to the mounting frustrations and challenges food retailers face as they strive to operate in a period of intense regulatory activity. We are asking Congress to put aside partisan politics and focus on workable, common sense solutions that allow grocery stores to do what they do best: serve the consumer by feeding families and enriching lives.”
NGA President and CEO Peter J. Larkin said, “Grocery stores are a fundamental part of any community, creating jobs and investing in the local economy. With a growing number of legislative and regulatory issues that directly impact the supermarket industry, the annual Day in Washington meeting provides a great opportunity for grocery executives to establish relationships with their policymakers and advocate on the issues that matter most to them, their businesses, and employees.”
The nation’s grocery stores will collectively focus their energies at Day in Washington on the following three priority issues:
Menu Labeling:
The supermarket industry supports enactment the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015 (H.R. 2017/S. 2217) to make the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s chain restaurant menu labeling regulations more workable in a grocery store setting. The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2017 in February with a 266-144 bipartisan vote and the industry will campaign for bipartisan momentum in the Senate.
GMO
The nation’s food retailers strongly support legislation that creates a uniform national standard for labeling products that contain or may contain GMO ingredients and that preempts differing state laws. The Biotechnology Labeling Solutions Act was approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee on March 1 by a bipartisan vote of 14-6, but then failed on the Senate floor 48-49 on March 16.
EMV Transition to Chip-Enabled Cards
Grocers seek relief from the liability shift effective Oct. 2015, as well as assistance in dealing with the criminals that are targeting their stores. Food retailers are negatively impacted by unprecedented chargebacks on alleged fraudulent chip card transactions, often compounded by several large charges on one single card. Grocers need more information from the issuer and card-network-fraud-monitoring divisions allowing these transactions to occur. Grocers, like all merchants, do not have any ability to affect card rules and policies, so food retailers seek equal representation on the EMVCo voting board, the standard-setting body for EMV, so that their concerns are considered and addressed during the policy-making process.
###

NSAC Press Statement on Passage of Harris Amendment


We are deeply disturbed by the passage of the Harris amendment to prohibit USDA from protecting farmers as provided by the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 against anticompetitive, deceptive, fraudulent, retaliatory and other abusive business practices by multi-national meat processing companies. The amendment squeaked by on a vote of 26-24.
USDA is poised this year to finalize rules that would protect farmers’ basic human rights – like the right to free speech, freedom of association, right to trial by jury, and transparency in contract terms – in their dealings with large meat processing companies. *
The scope of the Harris rider is truly stunning. If included in final FY 2017 funding legislation, it would prevent USDA from implementing even the most basic farmer protections. It prohibits USDA from enforcing provisions from the 2008 Farm Bill and the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921, both of which direct USDA to ensure that livestock and poultry markets are open, transparent, and competitive, and to protect farmers and ranchers from fraudulent, deceptive and abusive practices in their dealings with the meat and poultry industry.
In addition to NSAC, both the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union opposed the anti-farmer Harris amendment.
By law, appropriations bills are supposed to have a narrow focus – providing discretionary funding for federal programs in a particular fiscal year. Instead, the FY 2017 House Agriculture Appropriations bill as amended overreaches, going beyond its jurisdiction to overturn multiple pieces of authorizing legislation. We will work with our partners to remove this anti-farmer provision from the annual agriculture spending bill as the process moves forward.
* The Harris rider undermines several core protections for farmers including:
(1) Protection Against Retaliation
Regulation to make it a prohibited practice under the Packers and Stockyards Act for meatpackers and poultry integrators to retaliate against farmers for exercising their rights to free speech and/or free association.
(2) Payment Transparency
Regulation to require meatpackers and poultry integrators to give farmers statistical information and data about how their pay is calculated, if the farmer requests such information.
(3) Farmers’ Legal Rights to Jury Trial
Regulation to prohibit meatpackers and poultry integrators from forcing farmers to give up their legal right to a jury trial to address future disputes with the company.
(4) Disclosure
Regulation to require meatpackers and poultry companies to submit to GIPSA sample contracts that they are using in their contract relationships with farmers.

DeLauro Statement on Agriculture Appropriations Bill



WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today released the following statement regarding the Agriculture Appropriations bill.

“Regrettably, I cannot support the Agriculture Appropriations bill because it contains partisan ideological riders that completely undermine our regulatory agencies’ abilities to do their jobs.

“While I offered two amendments today that would have stripped harmful provisions that exempt cigars from the tobacco deeming regulation and weaken compounding pharmacy regulations, special interests prevailed and my amendments were not adopted. Now is not the time to lower our standards for tobacco products or compounding pharmacies. We cannot put America’s children and consumers at risk.

“The Food and Drug Administration is one of our most critical lines of defense in ensuring the health and wellbeing of Americans. This bill restricts the FDA’s ability to finalize guidance on laboratory developed tests, which are currently unregulated. These tests are the precipice for people receiving treatment from life-threatening diseases, and having FDA regulate them would help ensure that they are more accurate and timely.

“Additionally, it is a shame that there is both bill and report language to prevent the FDA from finalizing their rule on generic drug labeling. Generic drugs should be allowed to update their labels with new safety information, just like name brand drugs have been able to for almost 30 years.

“This bill also further delays the FDA from finalizing menu labeling. Consumers have the right to know the nutritional content of their food and we should not continue to kick the can down the road when it comes to menu labeling.

“Further, the bill includes provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act that would expedite the approval process of medical devices and weaken the statistical standards for clinical trials—such substantial authorizing language has no place in an appropriations bill. This is not how Congress is meant to work.

“The issues with the bill are not just limited to provisions regarding the FDA. The bill includes a study to explore allowing the purchase of vitamins by WIC recipients. Vitamins are an unregulated industry with no guarantee of safety or effectiveness. If Republicans are concerned about nutritional deficiencies, then they should support increased access to healthy food such as fruits and vegetables.

“In 2010, the USDA proposed livestock and poultry farmer protection regulations and they received more than 60,000 public comments, most of them in support of the core set of proposals. However, this bill includes an amendment that would block USDA’s actions—delaying protections for farmers from unfair and abusive practices that are all too common.

“And finally, House Republicans once again failed to address the Zika virus. The Administration has provided additional details on their request—even noting that vaccine development is further along than anticipated—yet Republicans refuse to act. Americans across the country are starting to panic over what is yet to come, there is conflicting advice on whether an entire region should avoid pregnancy, and every day we learn more details about this disease. We must prepare ourselves with every tool possible to fight this virus before it becomes an all-out epidemic.

“The bill has too many provisions that would harm the health and safety of Americans by underfunding our food safety regulators and failing to adequately address nutrition and farm worker protections. As such, I do not support this bill.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

PEI WEI PUTS QUINOA ON THE MENU


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (April 12, 2016) – Pei Wei is giving guests a new way to boost nutrition and flavor in their customizable meals with the introduction of quinoa on the menu. It is the first Asian-inspired fast casual restaurant to offer quinoa, which will be available at Pei Wei’s more than 200 restaurants through July 4.

The nutrient-dense, gluten-free ancient grain, which is a good source of protein, fiber, iron, thiamin and vitamin B-6, is featured for a limited time in the new Korean Spicy with Quinoa. Guests can also pair quinoa with any of Pei Wei’s Wok Classic entrees for an additional 99 cents.
The Korean Spicy with Quinoa, starting at just under $8, is made with nutritious, flavorful ingredients including carrots, edamame, freshly chopped red bell peppers, bean sprouts and scallions. The dish is wok-cooked with sesame oil and spicy sauce, inspired by the sweet-tangy-spicy flavors of traditional Korean bulgogi, then lightly tossed in soy sauce. It can be ordered with chicken, steak, shrimp or tofu.

“As a leader within the fast casual industry, Pei Wei offers guests bold flavors and light options made with high-quality ingredients selected for taste and nutritional value,” said Pei Wei Chief Marketing Officer Clay Dover. “We added quinoa to our spring menu to give Pei Wei guests a new way to take care of themselves through better food choices.”

Now available with quinoa or salad, Pei Wei’s Wok Classics are made to order in 10 flavorful recipes such as Mongolian, Kung Pao, Ginger Broccoli and Sweet & Sour.

Chairman Conaway wants answers from EPA for funding recent anti-farmer campaign





Today, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) sent a letter to Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requesting information regarding EPA’s $3 million cooperative agreement with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission that funded an advocacy campaign attacking farmers and ranchers in Washington State. The advocacy campaign includes billboards, bus placards, and a website that encourages the public to contact their state lawmakers using a pre-written email. According to a recent news report, EPA has acknowledged that the use of EPA financial assistance to fund this campaign was a violation of federal law.

“While this advocacy campaign is troubling, we are even more concerned that it appears to be part of a broader pattern of mismanagement of federal funds at EPA,” Chairman Conaway wrote in the letter. “The cooperative agreement with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission is one of many awarded as part of EPA Region 10’s Puget Sound Action Agenda. When viewed in context with the EPA OIG report and the recent GAO legal decision, the ‘What’s Upstream’ campaign seems to be merely the most recent indicator of a lack of appropriate oversight at EPA.”

Monday, April 11, 2016

Anti-trade presidential campaign rhetoric raises the risk of increased protectionism



April 11th, 2016, NEW YORK, NY- Fervent anti-free trade rhetoric dominates the U.S. Presidential campaign on both the Republican and Democratic side, raising the risk of increased protectionism, according to  Kathy Bostjancic, Head of US Macro Investor Service, Oxford Economics.  "Using our global economic model, we estimate that imposing high trade tariffs on China and Mexico and likely retaliatory tariffs would lower both the level of real GDP by 1.6% and employment by 1.4 million by 2020, than we otherwise forecast.  Sharp increases in tariffs would push the inflation rate up to 3.5% by 2020," says Bostjancic in a research brief released today.
Bostjancic also highlights the following in the report:

The benefits of free trade are widely dispersed, while the costs are highly concentrated. Further, recent empirical evidence shows that the negative impact on affected workers is greater than theory suggested.  These negative externalities of free trade fuel the populist backlash.

However, the benefits of free trade still outweigh the costs; thus, increased trade protectionism would stifle U.S. economic growth.

Moreover, imposing such tariffs would violate World Trade Organization rules and puts the US in breach of trade agreements we have entered into with other countries.

Most importantly, the politicians – while tapping into the electorate’s increasingly negative view of free trade - are focusing on the past and making global trade the scapegoat. Instead leaders should focus on practical solutions to help those workers who have been adversely affected by foreign competition as well as technological advances.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Development Expert Rose Barbuto Joins Farm Journal Foundation


PHILADELPHIA, April 5, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Farm Journal Foundation announced that Rose Barbuto has been named the new Executive Director of External Relations. She will lead the Foundation's Washington office where she will oversee government relations activities, develop strategic alliances, and help develop new program platforms that build on the Foundation's work with US Farmers, next generation engagement, and national policy makers.  

"Rose brings a great depth of experience in global food and nutrition security and agriculture development policy," said Tricia Beal, CEO, Farm Journal Foundation. "Her proven success in developing impactful advocacy and government relations strategies for development organizations make her an excellent fit for our foundation."
Since its launch in 2010, The Farm Journal Foundation (FJF) has been bringing new voices to the agricultural development policy table, broadening the agriculture discussion, and serving as a bridge between development and agricultural groups through several platforms:
Farmers Feeding the World, a national network of elite farmers passionate about the role of agriculture in addressing hunger around the world engage national policymakers to advance the government's commitment to agriculture in U.S. foreign policy.
HungerU, a Next Generation engagement platform with 20,000 student advocates connects to university populations and policy makers, raising awareness of nutrition and food security issues.
The Farm Journal Foundation Dialogue identifies important policy moments and delivers the best, updated information available to decision makers.
"I'm honored to join Farm Journal Foundation, Barbuto said. The Foundation is in an exciting period of growth and I'm looking forward to supporting its efforts to advance food security and foster economic development through agriculture."
Barbuto brings more than 15 years of development and advocacy experience in the United Nations and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Barbuto joins the Foundation after serving as Country Director for the United Nations Office of Project Services in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Previously, she served as a Director of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response in Liberia, managing efforts to scale up the emergency response in the unprecedented fight against Ebola. Her nonprofit experience includes serving in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where she developed and helped execute the foundation's U.S. government relations strategies on agricultural development, nutrition and trade. Barbuto began her development career with the United Nations World Food Programme, where she held positions in the executive office, Government Relations and in Africa.  She gained her legislative experience on Capitol Hill working for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Barbuto earned her bachelor's degree in English literature and Italian literature from State University of New York at Buffalo.

DeLauro Calls for SNAP Benefits to be Reinstated for More Than a Half a Million Americans



WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today released the following statement regarding news that hundreds of thousands of Americans would lose access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, as a result of states imposing time and work requirements.

“At a time when millions of Americans are still recovering from the Great Recession, we cannot take away one of the most critical lifelines we have in lifting people out of poverty. Food insecurity affects Americans of every age and eliminating SNAP benefits simply because someone has still not found work is unconscionable.

“While the economy continues to grow, we cannot fail to recognize how the recession continues to affect people across the country. From veterans who have returned from serving overseas, to older adults who lost a job just before retirement, these Americans are struggling to find work and depend on SNAP. Eliminating these benefits does nothing to enable these individuals to find work; it only makes their lives harder. I urge my colleagues to join me in standing up for our country’s most vulnerable and ensuring that they maintain their SNAP eligibility.”