The House Agriculture Committee’s first hearing of the new Congress is in the books. Up next, the committee will be bringing in USDA officials to review different areas of the farm bill, according to Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa.

He told reporters to expect hearings every time the House is in session, and the committee also is planning a listening session in Waco, Texas.

Meanwhile, Thompson said the committee staff will separately be auditing USDA accounts for money that has been appropriated but not spent.

Why that matters: The Senate and House Ag committees are both looking for any funds they can use to meet requests for additional farm bill spending.

By the way: Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., is rejoining the committee. He’ll add some needed farm-bill experience to the committee since he was a member when the 2018 farm bill was written. Bost will be on the Subcommittee on Conservation, Research, and Biotechnology.

Read about Tuesday’s hearing in this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter. 

FDA changes not welcome by food and consumer coalition

Disappointment was the common sentiment shared by food and consumer groups following the additional insight provided Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration on its proposed restructuring of the Human Foods Program.

Donna Garren, vice president of science and policy at the American Frozen Food Institute, was one of many food and consumer group representatives who criticized FDA’s proverbial kicking of the can on implementing key organizational structural and cultural changes at the agency as called for under the Reagan-Udall Foundation report issued last year.

She said industry and consumer groups continue to be kept somewhat at arm’s length by FDA. “We’re going to be the long-term recipients of whatever is decided by this agency, and we deserve a seat at the table instead of being the meal on the table,” Garren says.

Roberta Wagner, a 28-year year FDA veteran who is now the vice president of regulatory and technical affairs at the Consumer Brands Association, said the actions by FDA Commissioner Robert Califf show he chose “business as usual” instead of accepting expert recommendations on how to help prevent food shortages and limit the spread of food-related illnesses.

Feds to pay for immigration raid of meatpacking facility

The federal government has agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle claims in connection with the 2018 raid of a Tennessee meatpacking plant that ensnared about 100 Latino workers.

The workers alleged armed Department of Homeland Security and Internal Revenue Service agents illegally targeted them for detention, excessive force and false arrest, according to the National Immigration Law Center, which represented the workers along with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Under the $1.17 million settlement, class members will receive $550,000 and, “upon request, a letter from (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) confirming their membership in the class that can be included in any applications for immigration relief.”

The settlement also requires the U.S. to pay $475,000 to six individual plaintiffs to resolve claims including excessive force and unlawful arrest. SPLC and NILC will get $150,000 in attorneys’ fees and expenses.

NCBA renews call for Brazil beef ban after tardy BSE report

Brazil has again taken too long to report the discovery of a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy and the U.S. should react by banning imports of beef from the country, says the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Todd Wilkinson, the group’s president, said Brazil has “repeatedly” failed to meet a 24-hour requirement to report diseases listed by the World Organization for Animal Health.
“In order to protect the safety and security of the U.S. herd, and American cattle producers, we demand USDA take immediate steps to block further beef imports from Brazil,” he said.

Wilkinson said NCBA expects USDA would keep Brazilian beef out of the U.S. “until (Brazil) can demonstrate that they are willing and able to play by the trade rules that govern all other nations. If they can’t play by the rules, they don’t deserve access.”

Brazil soy harvest advances despite some delays

Brazilian farmers have harvested 33% of the country’s soybean crop this year, as of last Thursday, according to the consulting firm AgRural. That’s an 8% increase from where the harvest was a week earlier.

Most of the progress is being made in Mato Grosso, Brazil’s largest producing state, while rain delays are hindering the harvest in the states of Paraná and Mato Grosso do Sul.

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Those two southern states are also behind in their planting of second-crop corn, says AgRural. Brazil has planted 56% of its second-crop corn – also called the “safrinha” – but that’s well below the 63% planted at this time a year ago.

Legislators reintroduce ‘checkoff reform’ bill
A bipartisan group of legislators from both chambers Tuesday reintroduced the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act, a bill that would require checkoff boards to make their budgets publicly available and submit to periodic audits by the USDA Inspector General.

The bill also prohibits boards from entering into agreements with parties that engage in lobbying. The measure was introduced in the House by Reps. Nancy Mace, R-S.C. and Dina Titus, D-Nev., and in the Senate by Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Cory Booker, D-N.J., Rand Paul, R-Ky., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

Take note: The bill has support from the Organization for Competitive Markets, the National Dairy Producers Organization, Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. It has drawn criticism from the NCBA, however, which said that by introducing it, the legislators are “working to subvert the will of U.S. cattle producers.”

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