WASHINGTON, July 12, 2016 - House Republican leaders are gearing up to ensure that the Senate’s compromise on GMO labeling gets to President Obama’s desk. The House Rules Committee is expected today to approve a closed rule for the bill that would not allow consideration of any amendments. 

A closed rule is critical for the legislation because if the House makes any changes, the bill will have to go back to the Senate. That would delay exaction of the legislation indefinitely. Both the House and Senate are going to be out of session after this week until September.

Some opponents of the legislation seemed resigned to the idea that the House is going to approve the bill. They’ve already started a petition to President Obama, asking him to veto the bill even though his own Agriculture Department assisted in the drafting of the measure. The petition needs at least 100,000 signers just to get a response from the president. 

More than 1,100 organizations and companies sent a letter to House leaders yesterday, urging them to get the bill passed this week. Opponents of the bill countered with a letter signed by 79 groups. 

FSA employees: more funds needed for farm loans. Farmers are going through tough times and more funds are needed to provide much-needed credit, Farm Service Agency officials said in a statement Monday.

The National Association of Credit Specialists, a group representing the FSA officials who have the ability to approve farm loans, expressed frustration with the lack of available funds when commodity prices are low and farm income is falling.

“The irony is, producers turn to FSA to enter into farming and ranching or when commercial credit is unobtainable, and here we sit willing, but unable to fund their loan requests,” said Ben Herink, chairman of the group’s legislative committee.”

Herink said he was pleased with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s decision to request funds for new guaranteed farm ownership loans, but he also stressed that more funds are needed for operating loans.

“Some operations may not be able to get into business at this time and some may unfortunately go out of business,” he said. “What is also frustrating for our borrowers is that many will be forced to make poor operating choices.”

Do you want your Vilsack on wheat or white? The Dirty South Deli, one of the vendors at USDA’s weekly farmer’s market, is collaborating on a new sandwich named after Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a spokeswoman tellsAgri-Pulse. She said he’s consulting his grandkids on the sandwich ingredients and it should be available to the public in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, Vilsack signed a proclamation Monday, declaring that Aug.7 – 13 will again this year be considered National Farmers Market Week.

"Farmers markets are an important part of strong local and regional food systems that connect farmers with new customers and grow rural economies,” Vilsack said in a statement.

From June 3 through Sept. 30 the USDA is host to a farmers market every Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. where vendors sell everything from vegetables to fresh bread. If you’re in D.C. and you stop by the parking lot outside USDA headquarters on Independence Ave., you might even catch Vilsack at the market, where he’s known to buy sweet corn, bread, and the occasional pork sandwich.

USDA to post the data it collects at meat plants. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service officials collect reams and reams of data at the packing and slaughter houses that they inspect every day. Up until now FSIS has published much of that data in an aggregated form, but the agency’s Establishment-Specific Data Release Strategic Plan calls for that data from individual plants to be available to the public.

“FSIS’ food safety inspectors collect vast amounts of data at food producing facilities every day, which we analyze on an ongoing basis to detect emerging public health risks and create better policies to prevent foodborne illness,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza.

“Consumers want more information about the foods they are purchasing, and sharing these details can give them better insight into food production and inspection, and help them make informed purchasing decisions.”

Algae bloom takes a bite out of Chilean salmon. You can expect to continue to pay more for Chilean salmon because of the massive algae bloom that appeared off the country’s coast this year, according to a new Foreign Agricultural Service report.

The bloom, a result of effects from the El Niño weather pattern, has already reduced this year’s catch by about 100,000 metric tons in the first half or 2016, the report concluded. The losses that are due to the “red tide” represent about 12 percent of Chile’s total annual catch.

Angered over the situation and demanding help from the government, Chile’s fishermen held protests and blocked off roads. That only made the economic impact of fish losses more severe, the FAS officials said. “Industry sources estimated losses of $9 million (per) day in sales due to the road-blocks,” they said.

The price of Chilean salmon in the U.S. leaped by about 54 percent from January to June, the report said.

Agri-Pulse at ASA. If you’re attending the American Soybean Association’s Board of Director’s Meeting this week, make sure you catch Agri-Pulse Senior Editor Philip Brasher and Associate Editor Spencer Chase today as they discuss the presidential campaign and its potential impact on agriculture.

He said it. “If somebody glances at this and sees we oppose chickens, it’s not going to go well for us out on the campaign trail.” - Republican Party platform committee member Andy Aplikowski of Minnesota, opposing a platform amendment that would oppose any listing of the less prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act. The language was approved. 

Phil Brasher contributed to this report.


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