The Department of Health and Human Services is providing $176 million to Moderna to develop a bird flu vaccine for humans.

In the announcement Tuesday, HHS said Moderna’s influenza vaccine candidate “uses current mRNA technology leveraged successfully during the COVID-19 response, resulting in one of the first two FDA-authorized — and ultimately FDA-licensed  COVID-19 vaccines.”

Three people were infected this year with the bird flu that has made its way into more than 130 dairy herds in 12 states. Public health agencies maintain that the risk to humans remains low.

“Moderna’s mRNA pandemic flu vaccine is currently in early clinical development,” Don Prater, acting director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, told reporters. “The timeline may change, but we anticipate starting Phase 3 trials in 2025.”

SCOTUS sends Swampbuster case back to appeals court 

A South Dakota farmer may get some relief from the Supreme Court’s overruling of its 1984 Chevron decision.

In a brief order Tuesday, the court vacated an 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that found the Natural Resources Conservation Service did not have to review a designation of wetlands on Arlen Foster’s land.

The court ordered the 8th Circuit to look at its decision again “in light of Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo,” the decision the justices issued on Friday.

 “Our clients may now make their case in court without judges putting their thumb on the scale in favor of the government,” said Paige Gilliard, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing Foster.

EPA says climate change has made growing season longer

A new report from EPA says climate change has lengthened the crop growing season across the lower 48 states by an average of more than two weeks since the start of the 20th century. There has been “a particularly large and steady increase … since the 1970s,” the report says. 

Between 1895 and 2023, the length of the growing season increased by at least two days in 44 of the 48 states in the lower U.S., the report says. Three others — Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama — only saw losses or gains of up to two days, while Georgia saw its growing season decrease by between 10 and 20 days.

Washington, Oregon and California saw increases of between 40 and 50 days in their growing seasons from 1895 and 2023, the report says.

FDA revokes authorization of brominated vegetable oil use in food 

FDA has revoked authorization of brominated vegetable oil use in food after studies conducted with the National Institutes of Health found the ingredient, used in some sodas and energy drinks, could cause adverse health effects. 

The agency has regulated BVO, or vegetable oil that is modified with bromine, as a food additive since 1970 after it was removed from the codified list of Generally Recognized as Safe substances. It was once used in small amounts to stop citrus flavoring from floating to the top in beverages like Mountain Dew and Gatorade.

The ingredient is banned in drinks sold in Europe and Japan, and PepsiCo and Coca-Cola pledged to remove the ingredient from their product lines in 2014, but some off-brand products still used the ingredient, according to an Environmental Working Group report

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The agency proposed the ban last November. The rule is effective Aug. 2, and the compliance date is one year later to allow companies to reformulate, relabel and deplete the inventory of BVO-products.

 Fruit and vegetable advisory committee needs new members

USDA needs members for its Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee. The department is soliciting nominations to fill up to 25 upcoming vacancies on the committee, which provides advice on the produce sector to USDA, particularly its Agricultural Marketing Service.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack appointed 25 members in 2022. Two members have served two terms, and 23 have served one term, which all expire Oct. 28. New members will serve two-year terms.

More information is available in today’s Federal Register notice.

Texas grapefruit growers can now export to South Korea

South Korea has given Texas grapefruit growers access to its market, worth about $5 million annually. 

“This market access is a direct result of APHIS’ negotiations over many years,” said USDA’s Jenny Lester Moffitt, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs. “Just as crucial were our dedicated efforts to maintain fruit fly pest-free areas in Texas, and collaboration” with South Korea’s Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency to conduct the virtual site visit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service conducted a virtual site visit to demonstrate compliance with South Korea’s import requirements.

Rebekah Alvey and Noah Wicks contributed to this report.