WASHINGTON, July 14, 2016 - The U.S. House is set to make history today and provide a big, bipartisan send-off for legislation mandating the disclosure of biotech food ingredients. As we’ve reported, leaders of the House Agriculture Committee are expecting a majority of both Republicans and Democrats to vote for the bill on final passage. 

The Democrats expected to support the bill include their No. 2 leader, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. The White House has made it easier for Democrats to support the bill by releasing a statement praising the “bipartisan effort” behind the legislation and confirming that the president will sign it into law.

Monsanto’s chief technology officer, Robb Fraley, no doubt spoke for many across the food and agriculture sector when he wrote on his Twitter feed yesterday that “getting labeling behind us allows focus on other key food issues.”

House OKs challenge to Chesapeake pollution curbs. The House yesterday approved an amendment that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from penalizing states in the Chesapeake Bay region that fail to meet their pollution-reduction targets. The amendment, which was approved on a partisan231-197 vote, was added to a fiscal 2017 spending bill that already contains a number of provisions attacking the administration’s regulatory agenda.

Republicans are setting the stage for negotiations later in the year of a government-wide spending package.

USDA: Downer veal calves must be euthanized. USDA is banning the slaughter of downer veal calves. The Food Safety and Inspection Service prohibited the slaughter of non-ambulatory cattle way back in 2004 because of concerns about BSE, or mad cow disease. 

But the agency has been allowing downer veal calves to be slaughtered for food if they can get back on their feet after being warmed and rested. That will no longer be allowed. Under a final rule that takes effect in two months, calves that arrive at a slaughter plant unable to walk will have to be euthanized and kept out of the food supply. 

FSIS says the slaughter ban will improve the treatment of veal calves and will allow FSIS inspectors to spend more time on food-safety work.

Key lawmaker calls for U.K. trade pact. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and his House counterpart, Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, have introduced a resolution calling on the Obama administration to reach out to new British Prime Minister Theresa May to begin work on a bilateral trade agreement.

“The U.S. and the UK have a long tradition of working together to support one another’s mutual interests, and the U.K.’s decision to withdraw from the EU should not jeopardize that tradition,” Hatch said. 

Hatch also reiterated his support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership as well as for the ongoing trade negotiations with the EU, but stressed that EU deal must meet certain standards. Hatch listed a series of priorities in the EU negotiations, and agriculture was No. 1. He said a EU deal “must have provisions that provide strong market access for agricultural products, including through the elimination of discriminatory geographical indication practices and unjustified sanitary and phytosanitary standards.”

U.S. takes on China export duties for magnesia. The Obama administration is challenging China over its export duties on nine raw materials, including magnesia used as a nutrient additive in livestock feed and by fertilizer makers.

 A complaint filed with the World Trade Organization alleges that China charges duties of 5 to 20 percent on exports of magnesia and the other raw materials. It’s a practice that China pledged to stop when it joined the WTO.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman says the export duties allow China to provide “substantial competitive advantages” to Chinese companies. But U.S. feed and fertilizer industry sources say they don’t expect any gain from forcing China to lift duties on magnesia. Prices of imports from China are already very low, says one official at a livestock feed company.

He said it. “This bill that the Senate has sent over is, you know, dumb. If you want to label something, use English.” - Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., arguing against the GMO bill because of its option for disclosing biotech ingredients via a smartphone code.

Editor's note: Agri-Pulse and Daybreak will be reporting from Cleveland and the Republican National Convention next week, and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia the following week. Let us know if you’ll be at either convention, or if you have friends and colleagues in food and agriculture who will be. Email the editor at philip@agri-pulse.com or call at 703-304-8483.

Bill Tomson contributed to this report.


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