Editor’s note: Daybreak will be on vacation for the next two weeks, returning Monday, Aug. 22. 

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2016 - A Washington-based activist group, the Center for Food Safety, is telling supporters that it will file a lawsuit within the next two weeks to block the newly enacted biotech disclosure law. The group’s executive director, Andrew Kimbrell, said in a fundraising email yesterday that the lawsuit would seek to have the law declared unconstitutional “on a number of grounds.” 

Kimbrell said his group “has no intention of letting this anti-democratic, discriminatory, fake labeling bill stand.”

He didn’t elaborate on the legal basis for the lawsuit, but his group has a long history of challenging the Agriculture Department’s actions on biotech crops. One D.C. lawyer who specializes in food regulation, Ricardo Carvajal, told Agri-Pulse he “can’t think of any serious basis” for challenging the constitutionality of the new law.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association declined to comment on the prospect of a lawsuit, noting that the law was passed with large bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate. 

Few farms to get MPP payments after trimming coverage. Despite a sharp drop in dairy margins this spring, few farms are going to get payments under the Margin Protection Program. That’s a reflection of the fact that many producers reduced their coverage levels this year to the minimum amount, $4 per hundredweight. 

USDA announced yesterday that it expects to make $11 million in payments for the May-June period. But since the average margin during the period was $5.76 per hundredweight, the payments will only go to producers with coverage levels of $6 to $8. Less than 10 percent of production is protected at those levels this year. By comparison, last year about one-third of production was covered at those levels, according to USDA data. 

Dairy producers could buy up their coverage for 2017, but many may not see the need to do so: USDA’s online calculator doesn’t project margins to fall below $8 at any point before the end of next year. 

Chris Galen, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation, cautions that the USDA projection is just a forecast and that conditions “could change - and probably will.” He also points out that at this time last year USDA was projecting much higher margins than have actually occurred. “We know now that that forecast was overly optimistic.” 

USDA: Means test could affect few farms. USDA economists say that extending a means test to crop insurance at the $900,000 income eligibility limit that’s now on commodity programs would affect relatively few policy holders. A study by the Economic Research Service says that a $900,000 means test would catch fewer than 0.5 percent of farms and less than 1 percent of the premiums. 

Critics of crop insurance have been pushing to reduce premium subsidies to high-earning farmers, and such proposals are expected to be debated as part of the next farm bill. 

Farm groups fear that any income limit could easily be tightened at some point in the future even if it hits few producers when it is first imposed. The concern is that a substantial cut in premium subsidies would encourage wealthy producers to leave the program, potentially raising premiums for other farmers. 

Global food prices ease. International commodity prices fell last month after five straight months of increases. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says its measure of global commodity prices dropped 0.8 percent from June, largely because of declines in grain prices. The index is down 1.4 percent from one year ago. 

FAO said grain prices fell last month by 5.6 percent because of a sharp decline in corn prices, due to expectations for a big U.S. crop this fall, and a dip in the cost of wheat. Prices for vegetable oils also are down. Those declines offset increases in prices for dairy, meat and sugar. 

Today’s big question: Is a hot dog a sandwich? It’s not quite on the level of “to be or not to be,” but there are still those out there who ponder the weighty question: “Is the hot dog a sandwich, or not?”  The latest debate will take place today as part of this weekend’s Chicago Hot Dog Fest

Janet Riley, a spokeswoman for the North American Meat Institute and the so-called “Queen of Wien” with the National Hog Dog and Sausage Council (How she relishes that name!) will argue “no.” She’ll go up against Peter Alter from the Chicago History Museum. The hot dog council’s position is that a hot dog is much more than a mere sandwich: “A hot dog is an exclamation of joy, a food, a verb describing one ‘showing off’ and even an emoji. It is a category unto its own.” 

The public seems to agree. A new Harris survey on behalf of the council shows that 57 percent of Americans believe a hot dog is not a sandwich, compared to 33 percent who believe it is. Ten percent of the public is undecided.

Don't miss: Spencer Chase’s video report from the Illinois and Mississippi rivers on the state of the locks and dams. 

Daniel Enoch contributed to this report.



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