The Food and Drug Administration’s announcement that former EPA official Jim Jones would be the new deputy commissioner for human foods received applause from all quarters Wednesday.

Western Growers, Consumer Reports, the Environmental Working Group, American Frozen Food Institute and International Fresh Produce Association – among others – issued statements applauding the choice.

“Jim has a proven record of government leadership, as evidenced by his work on the critical Reagan-Udall Foundation Expert panel resulting in the December 2022 report on Operational Evaluation of the FDA's Human Foods Program,” Western Growers’ Senior Vice President of Science De Ann Davis said.

The new position was one of the report’s many recommendations to improve the foods program.

Jones has worked for the Household and Commercial Products Association and run his own consulting firm since departing EPA in 2017. He was the assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention for about five years and was at the agency for 19 years.

“The industry needs a deputy commissioner who has the experience to address transformational change and ability to lead this culture shift within the agency,” IFPA Chief Food Safety and Regulatory Officer Natalie Dyenson said.

Read more in Jacqui Fatka’s story on

Report finds drop in Labor Department investigations into farms

The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division is conducting fewer investigations into potential violations on farms, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute that found the number of such probes reached a record low of 879 in fiscal year 2022.

Report authors Philip Martin, an agricultural and resource economics professor at the University of California, Davis, and Daniel Costa, EPI’s director of immigration law and policy research, say a lack of funding and small staff at the agency have contributed to the decline. Expansion of the H-2A visa program over the years also may be a factor, they said.

Take note: Martin and Costa say Congress should give WHD more funding for investigators and recommend the agency issue larger fines for violations. They also want to make it easier for H-2A workers to change employers and prohibit employers with previous wage and hour violations from hiring through H-2A.  

USDA awards $72.9M for specialty crop block grants

Departments of agriculture in 55 states and territories will split $72.9 million under USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, the department's Agricultural Marketing Service said Wednesday.

The 2023 grants bring the total amount invested through the program to $1 billion spread across nearly 12,000 projects.

State departments can fund projects that will enhance the competitiveness of specialty crop products and create new market opportunities for specialty crop producers. For example, USDA said the California Department of Food and Agriculture will fund 46 projects focusing on areas such as “equity, climate change, food security and nutrition and marketing.”

“From enhancing nutrition and education in schools, to expanding consumer markets and increasing research in critical areas of food safety, CDFA’s partnership with USDA on this program furthers the competitiveness of the specialty crop sector on the national level with a lens of equity and a commitment to climate resilience,” CDFA Secretary Karen Ross said.

Carbon capture, ethanol interests urge Treasury to use GREET model

The American Carbon Alliance on Wednesday called for the Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Technologies (GREET) model to be used as the framework for a sustainable aviation fuel tax credit, arguing that doing so would make ethanol the “prime feedstock” for the fuel.

ACA, in a letter to Treasury Department officials, called the GREET “superior” to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s model. ACA is a coalition of carbon capture and ethanol groups.

Take note: Treasury hasn’t made a decision on which model to use, and other federal agencies reportedly have been divided on the issue.

New York horse trainer to pay fine, restore wetlands as part of settlement

A New York horse trainer has agreed to pay a $200,000 fine and restore 18 acres of wetlands as part of a settlement with the Justice Department

The Environmental Protection Agency alleged Mark Ford and his associated businesses filled about two dozen acres of wetlands and rerouted a waterway in Orange County, New York, without authorization from the Army Corps of Engineers.

The equine training facility is classified as a medium concentrated animal feeding operation.

“Defendants must immediately take interim measures to stop the unauthorized discharges of process wastewater, including from the swimming pool, manure storage barns, and horse wash operations at the Slaughter Road Site and the Ford Equine Site,” according to the proposed consent decree, which is now out for public comment.

BASF announces new version of Liberty 

BASF Agricultural Solutions is announcing the introduction of its latest herbicide, Liberty ULTRA, which the company says will deliver the same results with less product.

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“The specific combination of solvents and surfactants added to the Liberty herbicide formulation creates a significant weed control advantage over generic glufosinate herbicides,” said Liam Vincent, technical marketing manager for BASF.

The company expects to receive EPA registration later this year, which will allow for a targeted launch in 2024 and a full launch in 2025.

Senators seek to streamline NRCS conservation practice standards, add transparency

A bipartisan group of four senators announced a bill Wednesday to make the process of updating Natural Resources Conservation Service practice standards more transparent.

The Streamlining Conservation Practice Standards Act would require the agency to review conservation practice standards at least once every five years, create a streamlined process for interim standards, and require NRCS to make information more publicly available.

The legislation is sponsored by Sens. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.

He said it: “Every farmer in this country would like to buy diesel at 20% off just like they’re buying it in China.” – That was North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum during the first 2024 presidential debate for the Republican Party’s slate of candidates Wednesday night in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

Jacqui Fatka and Noah Wicks contributed to this report. 

Questions, comments, tips? Email Associate Editor Steve Davies.