The House Appropriations Committee today will take up a fiscal 2023 funding bill for USDA and FDA that was delayed during the negotiations over the debt ceiling. The measure will face strong opposition from Democrats in part because it would claw back $3.75 billion in clean energy funding provided by the Inflation Reduction Act and rescind $2 billion in loan forgiveness.

The bill also would be funded in part by restricting Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s use of the Commodity Credit Corp. The provision would reinstate a restriction Republicans lifted so that then-President Donald Trump could compensate farmers for his trade war with China.

Keep in mind: The legislation is dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate, if only because of the way it’s funded. The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

By the way: Ahead of today’s committee debate, the National Farmers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and 100 other groups appealed to the panel to ditch a policy rider that would bar USDA from implementing new rules addressing competition in the livestock and poultry sectors. 

Small meat processors call for FSIS ombudsman, mediation board at hearing

Members of a panel of small meet processors urged lawmakers at a hearing Tuesday to create an ombudsman or mediation board within the FSIS to help settle plant inspection disputes.

Greg Gunthorp, a farmer and processor in Indiana, told members of the House Judiciary Committee that owners of small and very small plants do not have sufficient means to "challenge and criticize” inspectors' decisions “without retribution.” He said an ombudsman would give small processors an avenue to do so.

However, Rosanna Bauman, a farmer and processor in Kansas, told lawmakers that an FSIS ombudsman is “not likely to be effective” due to what she calls a “culture of aggression and inability to admit wrongdoing” within the agency. 

She instead proposed a mediation board made up of “independent representatives” with knowledge in areas like microbiology, animal welfare, hazard analysis and critical control points, and a "university-based food processing authority.” A human resources staffer from FSIS could also sit on the board to weigh in on “appropriate conduct” of FSIS employees, Bauman said. 

FDA to make front-of-package labeling announcement today

The Food and Drug Administration plans to make an announcement today on front-of-package labeling, an FDA official said Tuesday.

Steven Musser, deputy director for scientific operations at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, told the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences’ summer meeting at the National Press Club that FDA is working on developing a front-of-package labeling system to clearly and concisely indicate the healthy attributes of food.

Musser also said FDA is in the “final stages” of selecting someone for the new position of  deputy commissioner for human foods who would oversee a unified foods program

He added that he anticipates FDA will consider approving more cell-cultured products. Two have been approved thus far.

Rural water leader testifies on need to protect against cyberattacks

Most rural water utilities “lack the financial resources and in-house expertise to defend themselves” from cyberattacks, the head of the National Rural Water Association told the House Agriculture Committee Tuesday.

NRWA CEO Matthew Holmes addressed the panel following attacks on water facilities in California and Florida.

Earlier this month, Reps. Don Davis, D-N.C., and Zach Nunn, R-Iowa, introduced the Cybersecurity for Rural Water Systems Act of 2023, which would provide cybersecurity technical assistance and authorize funding to hire a cybersecurity “circuit rider” for all 50 states. 

“Rural communities are vulnerable and not prepared to address cyber threats,” Holmes said. NRWA believes it should be a shared responsibility to assist those smaller facilities.

Republican governors urge support for EATS Act to counter Prop 12

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen led a coalition of 11 states representing more than half the country’s pork production in writing a letter to congressional leaders asking them to support the Exposing Agricultural Trade Suppression Act.

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The bill “would uphold the Commerce Clause of the Constitution by preventing states from impeding interstate agricultural trade” in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold California’s Proposition 12, Reynolds’ office said.

“California’s onerous requirements will pass the buck to American consumers – worsening the inflationary crisis gripping our economy,” Reynolds said.

“Iowa’s pork producers use science-based techniques to help feed America and the world, and California’s activist-drafted requirements will have a dramatic negative impact on those facing food insecurity,” she said. “It’s time for Congress to use their power and allow pork producers around the country to do what they do best.” 

See Jacqui Fatka’s report on how pork producers plan to comply with Prop 12 in this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter.

Philip Brasher, Jacqui Fatka and Noah Wick contributed to this report

Questions, comments, tips? Email associate editor Steve Davies.