FDA to ‘unify’ splintered food regulation duties under a single leader

After a baby formula crisis and a scathing critique of the FDA's disjointed structure, Commissioner Robert Califf said on Tuesday he would reorganize the agency to put food safety offices under the control of a powerful deputy commissioner. Consumer groups generally applauded Califf's plan as a step forward, although some critics called for more sweeping reforms, such as creation of a separate agency for food safety.

USDA now obscures the names of some farm subsidy recipients

After decades of releasing the names of everyone who receives farm subsidy payments, the USDA has changed course, hiding the names of a portion of farm subsidy recipients. An advocacy group that publishes the data says that the decision to withhold recipient names obscures how billions of dollars of taxpayer money is spent.

U.S. escalates dairy dispute with Canada

An international panel will hear renewed U.S. complaints that Canada is blocking dairy imports, said the Biden administration on Tuesday. The two nations held fruitless consultations in mid-January, so U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai demanded a ruling from a dispute resolution panel — a request that is granted automatically under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement.

Today’s quick hits, Feb. 1, 2023

California holds out  on Colorado River pact: Six of the seven states that rely on the Colorado River have agreed on a plan to reduce their water use, but California is holding out, causing the states to miss yet another federal deadline. (Los Angeles Times) Wall Street sees profits in drying …

Farm bill should expand SNAP, test fruit and vegetable incentives — task force

Congress should expand SNAP, the premiere U.S. anti-hunger program, to all American territories in the new farm bill and test whether benefits tied to the purchase of fruits and vegetables would improve the diets of SNAP households, a high-powered task force proposed on Tuesday. The recommendations could add billions of dollars a year to SNAP outlays at a time when conservative Republicans want to cut its cost.

As emergency SNAP benefits end, anti-hunger groups scramble to meet the need

Millions of Americans are about to lose nearly $3 billion in SNAP benefits that were put into place to fight hunger during the pandemic. The extra benefits were not supposed expire until end of the Covid-19 public health emergency. But the government spending bill passed by Congress in December makes February the last month that the federal government will issue the emergency allotments. Anti-hunger groups say that these allotments have been a lifeline for families that are barely coping with high food and energy costs. They warn that people will go hungry, food pantries — already struggling with exceptionally high demand — will be overwhelmed and the economy will suffer. (No paywall)

FDA needs a deputy commissioner for food, says coalition of lawmakers, industry and public health groups

If FDA commissioner Robert Califf listens to outside advice, he would create a powerful post — deputy commissioner for food — as part of restructuring of the agency. Califf could unveil a "new vision" for the FDA — which has been criticized as a disorganized protecter of the food supply — as early as Tuesday. The common idea from lawmakers, the food industry and public health groups was to put one person in charge of FDA's food offices.

Today’s quick hits, Jan. 31, 2023

Canada, Mexico ‘ignore’ USMCA: The Biden administration must be ready to pursue enforcement actions as necessary under the USMCA because Canada and Mexico “continue to ignore” their obligations, including in agriculture, said leaders of the Senate Finance Committee. …

Ag trade and food aid are focus of first D.C. hearing on 2023 farm bill

Foreign trade and U.S. food aid will be the subjects on Wednesday of "the first of many hearings the committee has planned as we gear up for the 2023 farm bill," said the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Premium subsidies for crop insurance near $12 billion a year

In a decade, government outlays to subsidize crop insurance increased 60 percent, expanding in step with the rapid growth in acreage covered by the policies, according to Risk Management Agency data released Sunday.

Today’s quick hits, Jan. 30, 2023

Iowa advances SNAP restrictions: An Iowa House subcommittee approved a bill to greatly restrict the foods available to SNAP recipients, with sponsors saying they would remove most of the restrictions in the near future although they did not provide details. (Iowa Capital Dispatch) Western …

FDA asks Congress for help on CBD regulations

Pointing to a lack of scientific research, the FDA said on Thursday that it would not consider rulemaking for the use of cannabidiol products as dietary or food supplements or in animal feed. Instead, said principal deputy commissioner Janet Woodcock, the FDA wants to work with Congress on “a new regulatory pathway” for CBD.

Today’s quick hits, Jan. 27, 2023

Rainfall becomes windfall: California’s winter storms have bolstered state reservoirs, and the Department of Water Resources expects to give drought-stricken public water agencies 30 percent of the water supplies they requested rather than the 5 percent previously allocated. (Department of …

Deputy secretary will be first Biden appointee to leave USDA

Jewel Bronaugh, the first Black person to serve as Agriculture deputy secretary, said on Thursday that she would leave the USDA at the end of February “so I can spend more time with my family.” Bronaugh, who oversees the USDA’s day-to-day operations, would be the first high-level Biden appointee to depart the agency.

Top FDA food safety official resigns as agency reorganization nears

Deputy commissioner Frank Yiannas resigned as the top food safety official at the FDA, effective Feb. 24, in a three-page letter that defended his record and criticized the agency for a decentralized structure that hobbled its protection of the food supply.

High food inflation to persist in 2023

The 9.9 percent food inflation rate of 2022 will be followed by a 7.1 percent rate this year, the highest rates in three decades, said USDA economists on Wednesday. Egg prices were forecast to rise 27 percent this year, on top of a 32 percent increase in 2022.

Today’s quick hits, Jan. 26, 2023

‘What’s a farm bill?’: More than 40 percent of U.S. representatives have taken office since the 2018 farm bill was enacted, meaning that nearly 200 members of the House may know little about the panoramic, and lately contentious, legislation. (Roll Call) Lawsuit targets livestock antibiotics: A …

Today’s quick hits, Jan. 25, 2023

Putin’s (lousy) chef: Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman known as “Putin’s chef” for his catering contracts with the Kremlin, was reportedly sued more than 500 times last year for supplying the Russian army with low-quality food. (Newsweek) California shooting …

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