WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2016 - The first day of fall is here and that means means the new federal fiscal year arrives in just nine more days. 

Congressional leaders have been sorting through a number of issues, including the Export-Import bank, in trying to nail down language for a continuing resolution that would prevent the government from shutting down when fiscal 2017 begins.  

Child nutrition bill remains alive. Leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee are still hopeful of moving the child nutrition reauthorization bill through the Senate before lawmakers leave town to campaign. The bill needs unanimous consent (UC), so aides have been waiting to make sure no senators will object. “We're still working through the UC process and hope to have it completed soon,” a committee spokeswoman said. 

McKalip to run GMO disclosure for USDA. Doug McKalip, a 22-year veteran at USDA, has been picked as director of bioengineered disclosure at the Agricultural Marketing Service. McKalip has been serving as acting chief of staff for the department as senior policy adviser on rural affairs for the White House Domestic Policy Council. 

His past jobs have included serving as director of legislative and public affairs for NRCS.

Vilsack pressed on GMO disclosure. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts is making it clear to USDA that he’ll have his eye on McKalip’s new shop as it implements regulations for the new disclosure law.

At a hearing yesterday with Vilsack, Roberts wasted no time complaining that AMS had issued a proposal to conduct two separate studies on the use of electronic disclosure for genetically engineered foods.

Roberts reminded Vilsack of the delicate negotiations that were behind the bill’s language. “I don’t know why the first shot out of the gate the department would go well beyond the law in implementation,” Roberts said. 

Committee aides say the law requires just one study on “Electronic or Digital Link Disclosure,” while the USDA has proposed a second “consumer use” study. Roberts obviously has in mind the even bigger issues to come when USDA writes standards for the disclosure program. 

Vilsack told Roberts he’s trying to protect the disclosure program from future legal challenges.

Vilsack and Roberts speak after the hearing. Read more about Vilsack's appearance here.

Industry mulls cage-free definition. The growing market for cage-free eggs is pushing the food industry to considering developing a common production standards. Representatives of egg producers and the food industry met yesterday with USDA officials to discuss the issue as well another challenges facing egg producers.

According to a summary of the meeting obtained by Agri-Pulse, there was consensus at the meeting that there needs to be a “common definition of ‘cage-free,” so that producers know what they have to do and retailers “can articulate what that means to consumers.” According to one participant in the meeting, the industry will likely have to develop a definition because the Agricultural Marketing Service has made clear that it doesn’t set such standards. But the agency will be monitoring the industry’s transition to cage-free. 

Earlier this week, AMS started publishing the new monthly report tracking prices for cage-free eggs that are traded on contracts and on a negotiated spot basis.

Next ag secretary should be another governor, says ex-governor. Vilsack, who served two terms as governor of Iowa, says his successor also needs experience running a state government. Vilsack told reporters that USDA has a much broader policy portfolio than many other departments. 

“Everything a governor does - natural resources, public safety, human services, economic development, trade - a secretary of agriculture does,” Vilsack said. He said there are several possible governors who could do his job, but he didn’t name them.

Wanted: One photo of turkey-kissing senator. Sure, there are a lot of perks that come with being senator, but Daybreak is pretty sure this isn’t one: At yesterday’s Senate Agriculture hearing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar revealed that she had to kiss a turkey as part of her role as keynote speaker at the recent King Turkey Days in Worthington, Minn. 

That disclosure prompted Vilsack to ask Klobuchar whether there was a photo of her bussing the lucky bird. Klobuchar said that, yes, Congressman Tim Walz had in fact taken a photo and that she had asked him not to tweet it. 

The only photo Walz tweeted from the event was of a T-shirt.

USDA declares natural disaster in Louisiana from storms and floods.USDA has designated 11 parishes, or counties, in Louisiana as natural disaster areas because of the extensive damage done to crops and livestock by storms and flooding last month. The declaration means that farmers in those 11 parishes – plus an additional 15 neighboring parishes and counties in Texas -  are eligible for low interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency.

But farmers will need a lot more than emergency loans to recover, says Michael Klein, a spokesman for the USA Rice Federation. “We’re happy a designation has been made however, you can’t borrow your way out of a disaster,” Klein said. “We understand this is currently the only available assistance under the secretary’s authority, but it likely won’t help our growers very much.”

USA Rice is working with lawmakers to try to get more substantial assistance from Congress.

He said it. “There’s no question that it’s a more thorough inspection, and also it will I think avoid mislabeling. Often people are paying catfish rates for fish that are not catfish.” - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, defending his department’s catfish inspection program

Bill Tomson contributed to this report. 



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