An independent commission issues a report this week that's expected to make far-reaching recommendations for fixing widely perceived weaknesses in the Food and Drug Administration’s human foods programs.

A Reagan-Udall Foundation panel tasked with analyzing the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and the Office of Food Policy and Response received input from a wide variety of food and nutrition groups as well as experts inside and outside the agency, many of whom commented anonymously through an online portal. The panel is chaired by former FDA Commissioner Jane Henney, 

One likely recommendation in the report to be released Tuesday is that the FDA establish a permanent deputy commissioner for foods who would report directly to the FDA commissioner, a goal of a broad coalition of industry and consumer groups that don’t normally agree on much. The panel probably also will address the issue of regulatory transparency.

Criticism of the agency reached a crescendo this year after an infant formula crisis exploded nationwide with the shutdown of the Abbott Laboratories’ Sturgis, Mich., plant and a subsequent revelation that FDA’s response to a whistle-blower report was delayed because agency leadership didn't get it until four months after it was sent to the agency.

On Capitol Hill this week, negotiations will continue on a government-wide spending package for fiscal 2023 that could include a fresh round of agricultural disaster assistance.

Groups representing corn, cotton, soybeans, rice, sorghum, wheat and other commodities have appealed to congressional appropriators to extend USDA's Emergency Relief Program to cover 2022 losses. USDA created the existing ERP using money Congress provided last year to cover 2020 and 2021 losses.

The House, meanwhile, is scheduled to wrap up another major item on its to-do list by considering a bill that combines a reauthorization of water resource programs with the annual defense authorization measure. Agricultural shippers have been watching the water measure to see whether it will include provisions to accelerate replacement of locks and dams and other infrastructure. The Senate version of the bill would increase the federal Treasury cost share for inland waterways projects from 65% to 75%.

The Senate Agriculture Committee, which is using the lame duck session to do a review of farm bill programs, will have a hearing Tuesday on agricultural research.

The committee’s ranking Republican, John Boozman of Arkansas, plans to use the hearing as an opportunity to identify research priorities for the next farm bill, said spokesman Patrick Creamer. Boozman “wants to make sure that as we take up the next farm bill, it is not a scattershot approach to research, rather one that is focused on key priorities,” Creamer said.

On Tuesday, lawmakers will have one eye on Georgia, where voters will decide whether Democrats will control a 50-50 Senate again next year or have a one-seat cushion, 51-49. In the most recent polls of likely voters Senate Agriculture Committee member Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., has held a narrow lead in his runoff with Republican Herschel Walker.

A Warnock victory would make it easier for Democrats to move President Joe Biden’s nominees to floor votes and would weaken the power of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., or any other single Democratic senator. 

Also this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday will announce a new USDA initiative to support President Joe Biden’s “Cancer Moonshot” mission to wipe out cancer.

The USDA initiative will accelerate “the preventative science and research necessary to improve nutrition in support of better health outcomes for all Americans,” according to a USDA advisory. The project “will also help achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of ending hunger, improving nutrition and physical activity, and reducing diet-related diseases.”

Interested in more coverage and insights? Receive a free month of Agri-Pulse!  

On the international front this week, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and officials from the National Security Council and State Department travel Monday to Brazil to meet with representatives of the administrations of outgoing President Bolsonaro and President-elect Lula da Silva.

According to the White House, the discussions will include “how the United States and Brazil can continue to work together to address common challenges, including combatting climate change, safeguarding food security, promoting inclusion and democracy, and managing regional migration.”
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, Dec. 5
American Seed Trade Association CSS & Seed Expo 2022, Chicago.
3 p.m. – House Rules Committee meeting to consider legislation combining the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 and the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2023, H-313 Capitol.

Tuesday, Dec. 6

The Almond Conference, sponsored by the Almond Board of California, marks its 50th consecutive year on December 6-8 at the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center in downtown Sacramento.  
10 a.m. – Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on farm bill research programs, 328-A Rayburn.

1:30 p.m. – House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis hearing, “Solving the Climate Crisis: Key Accomplishments, Additional Opportunities, and the Need for Continued Action,” 2167 Rayburn.

Wednesday, Dec. 7
1 p.m. – FDA webinar on food traceability rule.

Thursday, Dec. 8

8:30 a.m. - USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.

Friday, Dec. 9
Noon – USDA releases World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates and monthly Crop Production report.

Jacqui Fatka contributed to this report. 

For more news, go to: