The Food and Drug Administration’s reorganization to create a unified Human Food Program has received approval from the Department of Health and Human Services and will go into effect Oct. 1. 

A set of recommendations from the Reagan-Udall Foundation motivated the reorganization of the Human Foods Program, following the FDA’s infant formula shortage response. FDA unveiled the plans for the program early 2023. 

Why it matters: The changes will allow FDA to elevate the importance of nutrition, strengthen state and local partnerships and fully implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, among other goals, FDA says. 

Specifically, the reorganization realigns the functions of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the Office of Food Policy and Response and parts of the Office of Regulatory Affairs under the Human Foods Program. 

Reaction: The International Fresh Produce Association, which contributed to the Reagan-Udall Foundation evaluation, says the Human Foods Program is “essential to maintaining and enhancing the safety of our produce, which is central to the nutritional security of our nation."

Says Steven Mandernach, executive director of the Association of Food and Drug Officials, “The approval of the reorganization allows for a much fuller implementation of the vision of the broad human food stakeholder community.”

The official Federal Register notice of approval will be published on Monday.

USDA provides big boost to H5N1 response funding

USDA is making $824 million available to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for “critical rapid response activities” related to the outbreak of avian influenza in dairy cows.

The department’s announcement came the same day Michigan and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention announced detection of bird flu in a second Michigan dairy worker.

USDA also said it is standing up a new Voluntary H5N1 Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program

Dairy producers from states enrolled in the first phase of the program can choose to enroll their herds; once their herds test negative for H5N1 for three straight weeks using on-farm bulk tank milk samples or similar representative milk samples, they will be able move animals without additional pre-movement testing that is currently required under a federal order issued last month. “Producers must also comply with continued regular weekly monitoring and testing of the herd for H5N1.”

USDA is using its Commodity Credit Corporation spending authority to provide the funding.

Meanwhile, on beef: USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced final results of its beef muscle sampling of cull dairy cows condemned at select FSIS-inspected slaughter facilities. No viral particles were detected in 108 out of 109 muscle samples, FSIS said. The service announced May 24 that viral particles were detected in tissue samples, including diaphragm muscle, from one cow, but “no meat from these dairy cattle entered the food supply.” 

Economists: Reference price increases don’t show full picture

A new analysis out from economists at Ohio State and the University of Illinois questions whether the reference price increases in the House Agriculture Committee’s farm bill fully reflect the impact of higher production costs.

Committee staff based the varying increases on changes in product costs since the reference prices were originally set in the 2014 farm bill. The analysis led by Ohio State’s Carl Zulauf says the modifications also should account for increases in trend yields over the same period.

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The report calculates a “cost per trend unit of output” based on changes in production costs and trend yields, noting that the “cost per trend unit of output can decline even when cost per acre is increasing if the increase in yield is large enough. “

Bottom line: Some of the largest cost increases when yield changes are taken into account are for oats (up 33%), sorghum (up 30%), wheat (up 22%,) and soybeans (up 19%), while barley and cotton have seen slight declines. The bill’s reference price increase for soybeans is in line with the cost per trend unit calculation at 19%. But sorghum would get a reference price increase of just 11%. The rate for wheat would go up 15.5%.

By the way: The Senate Agriculture Committee is making no move to take up a farm bill of its own, and there is no sign that it plans to. But a Senate Ag subcommittee has announced a hearing next Tuesday on issues affecting beginning farmers.

Summit Carbon land surveys allowed under North Dakota law, court says  

Summit Carbon Solutions has scored a win in its quest to build a pipeline to transport liquid carbon dioxide through five states in the Midwest The North Dakota Supreme Court has ruled the company can enter private property to figure out the best route for the pipeline.

Property owners were appealing a lower court decision that had found for the company. 

A summary of the court’s opinion says that to establish that the surveys constituted an unconstitutional taking, landowners had to show they have a property interest that is “constitutionally protected.” The state’s law allowing pre-condemnation entry for survey and examination “illustrates a longstanding background principle of state property law and reflects the original public meaning of [the] state constitution's takings provision,” according to the court’s summary of its opinion. 

USDA, EPA, FDA agree to continue working on food loss, waste

USDA, EPA and FDA have formally agreed to renew a federal interagency collaboration aimed at reducing food loss and waste.

Agencies create educational guidance materials, provide technical assistance, lead policy discussions and engage in public-private partnerships under the collaboration, which was first established in 2018 and renewed in 2020.

In addition, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture said it would put $4 million toward a $1.5 million Center for Research, Behavioral Economics and Extension on Food Loss and Waste and $2.5 million toward a pilot consumer education campaign on food loss and waste, according to a press release.

Rebekah Alvey, Philip Brasher and Noah Wicks contributed to this report.