The House Agriculture Committee is holding a closed-door meeting Wednesday on child labor with legal experts and representatives of the meat processing industry. 

The meeting stems from the House farm bill markup in May, when Rep. Greg Casar, D-Texas, introduced an amendment that would have prevented USDA from contracting with meatpacking facilities engaging in illegal child labor.

The amendment was voted down – House Ag Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson said it was not filed on a timely basis. But he promised to have further discussions on the topic. Thompson told Agri-Pulse’s Rebekah Alvey that today’s meeting is the start of those discussions. The meeting provides an opportunity for the committee to get some background and “ask some really tough questions,” he said.

Take note: One of Thompson’s concerns with taking up the issue of child labor is that regulatory oversight falls under the Department of Labor. Today’s meeting will help determine the panel’s next steps and if a public hearing is warranted. 

By the way: Democrats, including Casar and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass, planned to address reporters ahead of the meeting to raise concerns that it’s being held behind closed doors with meat packing industry representatives. 

USDA livestock competition proposal out for review 

USDA’s latest attempt to address anti-competitive practices in the livestock industries is out, but the proposal faces an uncertain future because of this fall’s elections. 

The proposed rule announced Tuesday seeks to define the meaning of “unfair practice” with respect to market participants as one that “causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to one or more market participants.”

The meat industry maintains that in order to show injury to competition, the effects have to be felt by the entire industry. “Under these proposed rules, everyone loses, the livestock producer, the packer and ultimately the consumer,” said Julie Anna Potts, President and CEO of the Meat Institute.

Other groups such as Farm Action and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition welcomed the proposal.

Bird flu pilot program for dairy cows starting in four states

Four states have signed on to USDA’s new voluntary dairy herd testing program, and Iowa has become the latest state to impose new testing requirements for dairy cattle participating in state fairs and exhibitions. 

USDA says Texas, Nebraska, New Mexico and Kansas will take part in the pilot program, which aims to create more testing options for producers with herds that have tested negative for three weeks in a row.

The main benefit for farmers in the program is that “once they can demonstrate their herds are free of H5N1 with results from a National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) facility, they will then need to conduct weekly tests on bulk milk from that herd to confirm that status and will be able to ship their cows at the time they prefer and without testing individual animals,” USDA says.

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In Iowa, Ag Secretary Mike Naig announced an order going into effect July 1 that will require dairy exhibitors participating in Iowa fairs or exhibitions to complete testing for HPAI within seven days of moving to the exhibition. 

Consumer groups push Congress to oppose traceability pilots in House appropriations bill

Consumer groups are pushing back on a provision in the House Ag-FDA appropriations bill that would delay the agency’s traceability rule, which they argue leaves consumers at risk.

The rule, included in the Food Safety Modernization Act, is set to take effect Jan. 20, 2026. It sets more strict recordkeeping requirements along the food supply chain to better assist in food recalls or investigations.

What’s at stake: A provision in the appropriations bill would delay the rule until the agency successfully conducts traceability pilots. One of these pilots would require the agency to successfully resolve outbreaks without lot code information. 

In a letter, Consumer Reports and the Safe Food Coalition say this specific pilot could give opponents of the traceability requirements a case against requiring lot codes in the rule. “The end result would be to hamper implementation of the traceability rule and waste taxpayer money,” the groups write.

Additionally, they argue the bill includes no additional funding for these pilots while also effectively cutting agency resources. While the consumer groups argue enough work has been done to ready the supply chain for the rule, some in the industry have expressed concern over remaining challenges. 

FSA opens funding for specialty crop food safety certification 

The Farm Service Agency is making $19 million available through the new Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Program.

The funds can be used for small or medium size specialty crop operations that have eligible on-farm food safety program expenses to obtain or renew a food safety certification in 2024 or 2025.

Specialty crops are often required to have more rigorous food safety certifications because products often lack a “kill step” like cooking, according to the Federal Register notice. These funds, provided through the CCC Charter Act, will be used to help offset some of those costs.

FSA is also increasing the maximum payment amounts for maintaining or updating a food safety plan and training to account for additional certificates included under the recent ag water final rule

Denmark introduces carbon agriculture tax

Denmark has reached an agreement with farmers, environmental groups, and unions to implement a law targeting livestock emissions by requiring farmers to pay 120 Danish crowns per metric ton of emitted carbon dioxide – about $11, or approximately $100 per cow per year, according to a Danish government agency.

The tax will increase to 300 crowns in 2035, or about $28. Denmark has a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 70% by 2030, from 1990 levels.

Farming is the country's largest source of CO2 emissions. Although Denmark is the first to introduce a cattle tax, experts believe other governments will follow suit.

Rebekah Alvey and Noah Wicks contributed to this report.