A special new House committee is going to put a focus on China’s investments in agricultural land around the world. South Dakota Rep. Dusty Johnson, a Republican member of the Select Committee on China, says Chinese investment in U.S. farmland and ag processing isn’t the only concern. It’s also major Chinese investments in Africa and other regions.

“I think we want to assess what is the motivation of the Chinese Communist party, what kind of power, influence and impact do they gain by these foreign p­urchases, and try to decide whether or not that serves American interests. I suspect that it does not,” Johnson told reporters.

He noted that Russia has influence in Europe that it wouldn’t have except for its control of European energy supplies. “I would not want the Chinese Communist Party to have that kind of control over the global food supply.”

Take note: A leading congressional critic of Chinese ag investment, Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., also is a member of the new committee.

House Ag eyes California, Texas for listening sessions

The Senate and House Ag committees are starting to set plans for their first farm bill hearings.
The Senate Ag Committee has announced a series of four hearings, starting next Wednesday. That hearing will be on the trade and horticulture titles. The second hearing on Feb. 9 will cover commodity programs, conservation and credit programs.

The House Ag Committee hasn’t announced any events yet. But Chairman Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., tells Agri-Pulse the committee is planning a listening session at the World Ag Expo, which will be held Feb. 14-16 in Tulare, California.

Thompson expects to hold a second listening session in Texas.

FDA food safety chief exits with key recommendation

FDA’s top food safety official has announced his resignation plans ahead of an expected announcement from the agency on the direction of its food safety program. Frank Yiannas, who’s served the last four years as FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response, is endorsing the idea of appointing a single top executive to oversee food and feed regulation.

In a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, Yiannas says FDA “would operate more effectively and be better able to protect the American public from foodborne illness, with the creation of a more integrated operating structure and a fully empowered and experienced Deputy Commissioner for Foods, with direct oversight of those centers and offices responsible for human and animal foods.”

By the way: Yiannas says he told Califf he was concerned about the agency’s decentralized structure in February 2022, about the time Yiannas says he first learned of incidents of contamination in infant formula.

FDA steering clear of enforcement to create food safety culture
Government enforcement is not the best way to create an effective food safety culture, an FDA official said on a webinar Wednesday co-sponsored by FDA and Stop Foodborne Illness.
“We are on our journey where we're learning how best to foster food safety culture, and is enforcement the best way to do that? I'm not so sure about that,” said  Conrad Choiniere, who is helping to implement FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative.
Choiniere said “targeted, tailored training” is needed, so company employees actually learn how to ensure safe food production.
Bipartisan bill would overhaul trucking regulations
Dusty Johnson has joined a senior Democrat on the Ag Committee, California’s Jim Costa, to introduce a bill aimed at easing truck driver shortages and other trucking issues.
They hope their Safer Highways and Increased Performance for Interstate Trucking (SHIP IT) Act will reduce trucking bottlenecks by allowing vehicle waivers during disease and supply chain emergencies, streamlining the CDL process and expanding trucker access to parking and rest facilities.

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US corn exports to China weaken as Brazil nabs market share
A new analysis from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service in Beijing shows new evidence of weakening U.S. corn exports to China as Brazil steps in to take a portion of the market. A deal between China and Brazil last year opened up corn trade between the countries, and Brazilian corn began arriving in China this month for the first time.
It comes at a rough time for American exporters, because U.S. prices are unusually high, giving Brazil an edge in a smaller-than-expected market in the 2022-23 marketing year. Chinese buyers hold contracts for 3.7 million metric tons of U.S. corn, 70% less than at this time a year ago, according to the FAS analysis
Brazil will likely have as much as 50 million tons of corn to export for the 2022-23 marketing year, FAS says.
Turkish Navy neutralizes underwater mines near Black Sea grain route
Hidden underwater mines were one of the first major concerns when the Black Sea Grain Initiative was being negotiated as Russia waged its invasion of Ukraine. And the massive, floating explosives are apparently still a threat to the hundreds of vessels that are continuously picking up and transporting Ukrainian corn, wheat and other ag commodities. 
The Turkish Defense Department says its Navy has spent thousands of hours scouring the Black Sea for mines that pose a threat and detonating them when they are discovered. One mine was found near the Black Sea entrance to the Bosporus Strait, where all grain vessels must travel for inspection before entering or leaving the Black Sea.
The Defense Department has released a video showing the country’s Navy neutralizing one of the mines. Check it out here.
He said it. “My fervent hope is that American consumers, especially mothers and fathers of infants, never again have to face this type of preventable situation.” Frank Yiannas in his resignation letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, referring to the acute infant formula shortages that occurred last year.

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