Current news briefs: Briefs: COOL, wolf, cell-cultured meat
Committee changes intent of SD COOL resolution
A resolution passed the South Dakota House of Representatives urging the US Congress to implement a Country of Origin Labeling law and asking President Trump, US Congress, the US Ag Secretary, and US Trade Represesentative to “notify the World Trade Organization that it must not intrude on the sovereignty of the United States by attempting to undermine the United States country-of-origin labeling law.”
The resolution passed the state House of Representatives by a 47-22 vote.
In the Senate Ag and Natural Resources Committee, the bill sponsor, Representative Steve Livermont (R-27) proposed an amendment to clean up the bill language. The committee passed the amendment. Committee chairman Senator Gary Cammack (R-29) proposed a “hoghouse” amendment.
The amendment struck the language of the resolution and replaced it with language verbalizing support for voluntary country of origin labeling for food.
Livermont called the amendment “unfriendly” and said that his resolution was needed, in light of an era of poor national trade deals that did not seek to help the U.S. livestock producer.
Cammack said the amendment was needed because mandatory COOL would have imposed costs and verification requirements on farmers and ranchers and that the WTO ruling inspired other countries to threaten tariffs on U.S. products and to export fewer U.S. products.
“It (voluntary labeling) also supports the customers’ right to know where their food comes from,” he said.
Committee member Troy Heinert (D-26) spoke against the amendment, saying the amendment waters down the resolution. “If we send the original version of this to Congress, that means we mean business, we want them to act on this,” he said during the committee meeting.
Youngberg who was serving as the committee chair commented during the meeting that, “We don’t need to send anything to the federal government saying ‘we want you to control us more.’”
Committee members Senators Heinert and Susan Wismer (D-1) voted against the amendment, while the rest of the committee members – Rocky Blare, (R-21), Rob Ewing (R-31), Jordan Youngberg (R-8), Gary Cammack (R-29), Joshua Klumb (R-20) Ernie Otten (R-6), voted in favor of the amendment. Deb Soholt (R-15) was excused from the vote.
After being amended, the bill passed unanimously.
Feds to propose delisting of gray wolf
Several news sources reported today (March 6, 2019) that the Trump administration plans to propose a rule to take the gray wolf off the Endangered Species list.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will soon propose a rule to delist the gray wolf in the lower 48 states and return management of the species to the states and tribes,” the spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill.
The US FWS intends to publish the proposed rule in the Federal Register in the coming days, opening a public comment period on the proposal, said several media outlets.
Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt made an announcement at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Denver, according to The Hill.
The American Farm Bureau released a statement today.
“There are more than 5,000 gray wolves in the United States and more than 10 times as many over the Canadian border. The U.S. population of gray wolves far surpasses the recovery targets called for by the Endangered Species Act. Populations have reached critically high numbers in many states – so high, in fact, that wolves are not just preying on livestock, but pushing elk and deer onto U.S. farms and ranches, which leads to even more destruction.
“The administration’s decision to de-list the gray wolf is the culmination of a decades’ long battle that has pitted science-based decision making against litigious, environmental activism. The Bush and Obama administrations supported de-listing the gray wolf. Populations have far surpassed the recovery thresholds set forth by recovery plans, but too many environmentalists fail to recognize this success.
“A third administration is now moving to delist the gray wolf. The time has come to resolve this issue once and for all and to base that decision on the science and the law.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association also published a statement.
The recovery of the gray wolf in the United States is a conservation success story. When the federal government collaborates with state wildlife officials and local land managers, it enhances our ability to protect the wildlife and ecosystems that we all cherish. This is exactly how the Endangered Species Act is supposed to work.
“Unfortunately, as ranchers know all too well, the current Endangered Species Act rarely functions as Congress originally intended. Radical environmental activists use an endless cycle of lawsuits and procedural tricks to thwart effective conservation. That is why it has taken so long to delist the gray wolf, even though science has long shown the species had reached stable population levels. That is also why the Endangered Species Act’s overall effectiveness hovers at an abysmal rate of just two percent.
“The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Public Lands Council would like to commend Acting Secretary Bernhardt and his team for making this science-based decision. We look forward to continuing our work with the Department of Interior and state wildlife agencies as this process moves forward.”
USDA, FDA announce agreement to regulate cell-cultured protein
Industry groups praise USDA, FDA cell-based protein agreement
Many of the groups that have been involved in the debate over how the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration should split responsibilities for the regulation of cell-based protein praised an agreement announced today, but there were nuances in the details of their statements.
In a joint statement, the two agencies said, “Under the formal agreement, the agencies agree upon a joint regulatory framework wherein FDA oversees cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation. A transition from FDA to FSIS oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage. FSIS will oversee the production and labeling of human food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.”
“Consumers trust the USDA mark of inspection to ensure safe, wholesome and accurately labeled products,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Mindy Brashears.
“We look forward to continued collaboration with FDA and our stakeholders to safely regulate these new products and ensure parity in labeling.”
“We recognize that our stakeholders want clarity on how we will move forward with a regulatory regime to ensure the safety and proper labeling of these cell-cultured human food products while continuing to encourage innovation,” said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas.
“Collaboration between USDA and FDA will allow us to draw upon the unique expertise of each agency in addressing the many important technical and regulatory considerations that can arise with the development of animal cell-cultured food products for human consumption.”
Uma Valeti, a co-founder and CEO of Memphis Meats, one of the pioneers in the cell-based protein field, said in a news release, “Memphis Meats has long advocated for joint oversight of cell-based meat and poultry by both USDA and FDA, and we commend [Agriculture] Secretary [Sonny] Perdue, [FDA] Commissioner [Scott] Gottlieb, and their respective agency staff for working together to develop guidance that includes roles for both agencies.”
“Demand for meat is projected to double by 2050, and every stakeholder we speak with, regardless of production method, shares the goal of feeding our growing planet in a safe and sustainable way. As consumer interest for cell-based meat continues to grow, we will work with both FDA and USDA to bring safe and truthfully labeled products to market.”
The North American Meat Institute, which represents meat and poultry processors, also applauded the agreement.
“The framework announced today will ensure cell-based meat and poultry products are wholesome, safe for consumption, and properly labeled,” said Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts.
“We support a fair and competitive marketplace that lets consumers decide what food products make sense for them and their families, and this agreement will help achieve these goals by establishing the level playing field necessary to ensure consumer confidence.”
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston said, “The formal agreement announced today solidifies USDA’s lead oversight role in the production and labeling of lab-grown fake meat products.”
“This is what NCBA has been asking for, and it is what consumers deserve,” Houston said.
“Under the terms of the agreement, USDA will be responsible for inspecting all facilities that harvest, process, package, or label cell-cultured products derived from livestock or poultry. All product labels will also be subject to USDA’s pre-approval and verification process.
“We look forward to working collaboratively with the USDA and FDA on next steps, including the development of a more detailed framework concerning the cell harvest stage. Ensuring that all lab-grown fake meat products are safe and accurately labeled remains NCBA’s top priority.”
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association President Kenny Graner, who also represents cattle producers, noted that the USCA petition for rulemaking has been cited by agency officials as the catalyst for the discussions about cell-cultured technology, and said USCA is “encouraged by USDA and FDA preemptively formalizing a joint regulatory framework prior to the commercialization of these products.”
“Further, we’re pleased with language in the formal agreement that will allow USDA FSIS pre-market labeling authority,” Graner said.
But he added, “However, we’d like to reiterate our position that the term ‘meat,’ and more specifically ‘beef,’ refers to products derived exclusively from the flesh of a bovine animal harvested in the traditional manner. Under the formal agreement, it appears that USDA FSIS will issue the USDA meat inspection stamp to be used on these products.”
“USCA is strongly opposed to the utilization of any of the three purple-inked USDA meat inspection stamps for cell-cultured product. A new stamp should be created for cell-cultured products that is inspected by USDA and by state inspection agencies, using a different format and color ink on the stamp. Neither the federal or state meat inspection stamps should appear on the cell-cultured protein products, retail packaging or wholesale containers.
The National Farmers Union took a position similar to USCA on the USDA meat inspection stamps at its convention this week, but did not issue a statement today.
Jessica Almy, director of policy for The Good Food Institute, which advocates for plant-based and cell-based foods, called the agreement “a significant step forward in providing a transparent and predictable regulatory path to market for cell-based meat, which will help to ensure that the U.S. does not fall behind Israel, China, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, and other countries that are moving quickly to ensure a clear path to market for this method of meat production.”
The institute emphasized that, while the United States is “currently the central hub for cell-based innovation with several companies that have raised between $1 million and $20 million,” other governments and investors in foreign countries have also shown an interest.
The institute noted that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said, “We don’t want this new technology to feel like they’ve got to go offshore or outside the United States to get a fair regulatory protocol.”
“We commend the agencies for their leadership to guarantee that the U.S. retains its status as global leader in this promising new food sector,” the institute said.
Almy concluded that, “Today’s agreement is a strong signal that the USDA and the FDA will work together to ensure that cell-based meat and poultry products are safe and accurately labeled. Specifically, the agreement provides that USDA will pre-approve labels and also verify them through inspection, consistent with existing regulations. With this leadership at the federal level, there is no need for states to pass legislation that would censor these labels before cell-based meat even comes to market.”
Several states have already passed laws banning the use of the word “meat” with products that do not come from animals, but there are legal questions about whether those laws violate federal statutes on labeling.
The American Farm Bureau Federation wasn’t pleased with the announcement.
Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said,“The American Farm Bureau Federation believes USDA should have primary jurisdiction over lab-grown or cell-cultured protein.”
“We also understand that FDA plays a role in determining the safety of cell-cultured products. We look forward to reviewing the joint framework outlining the regulatory process and will work with both USDA and FDA to ensure consumers are protected and our goals are met regarding labeling and food safety.”