Notice: CGFA Feed Manufacturing Study Group Next Meeting
Chairman John Austel and CGFA staff have scheduled the next meeting of the CGFA Feed Manufacturing Study Group for Tuesday, March 18, 2014 from 9:30 am until approximately 12:00 noon. The meeting will take place at the DoubleTree Hotel in the Sonoma Room- 1150 Ninth Street, Modesto, CA 95354 (209) 526-6000.
The committee will be discussing the updates in regards to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Please RSVP if you will be able to attend this meeting by Friday, March 14th.
California Legislative Update
By: Dennis Albiani, Legislative Advocate
Wolk Water Bond Bill Passes Senate Committee
SB 848 (Wolk) was heard in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee this week and passed with 6 Ayes and 3 "not voting". The bill would replace the $11.14 billion water bond that is currently on the November 2014 ballot with a new $6.825 billion general obligation bond titled "The Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality, and Water Supply Act of 2014." The bill would also seek voter approval to make unappropriated bond funds from specific water bonds, which were authorized in 2000 and earlier, eligible for appropriation for water supply projects. The measure musty now move to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee and then through Senate Appropriations and the floor. The association believes the bill underfunds water storage projects and must contain a continuous appropriation.
Costly Labor Bills Introduced
Two bills have been introduced that would greatly increase labor expenses for California employers. AB 1522(Gonzalez) would require employers to provide paid sick leave. Employees who work more days in a calendar year would accrue sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. SB 935 (Leno) would increase the California minimum wage to $11 per hour on January 1, 2015, $12 per hour on January 1, 2016 and to $13 per hour on January 1, 2017.
USDA Moves Full Bore on Farm Bill Implementation
The details of how the new programs in the 2014 Farm Bill will work fall to USDA and how and when it gets the bill implemented. Fully cognizant of close scrutiny by Congress, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has said his department has been in implementation mode for some time, but also said he's created working groups under the direction of Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden to coordinate the effort.
The working groups will provide Harden with weekly reports on various aspects of implementation which she will pass on to Vilsack and his "convener" group, agency heads and other advisors who will then pass on proposed rules and program rewrites to the White House for the final OK. USDA is lending experts to the White House Domestic Policy Council to ensure a full understanding of the arcane agriculture programs.
Vilsack says the heaviest lift will be the commodity title since it creates two new insurance-based options for farmers to replace direct payments as their income safety net. It also suffers from the shortest time frame for getting the new programs up and running as several commodity programs - notably those relied on by southern producers - need to be in place within weeks in order for spring planting decisions to be made.
USDA also has to come up with how to define "actively engaged" farmers for the purpose of who qualifies for program payments and how new payment limitations will be applied. While House and Senate conferees came to agreement on the limits, they couldn't achieve consensus on how to define an "actively engaged" farmer and kicked the rewrite to USDA.
In the crop insurance arena, where most producers enjoy up to a 60% federal buy-down of their insurance premiums, USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) is going to have to create the new Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) now available to cotton and crop farmers.
Also needed is a revamping of conservation programs as the Farm Bill not only consolidates or kills off several existing programs, but ties commodity program and crop insurance eligibility to conservation compliance. This is particularly important in the crop insurance arena as today more than 80% of farmers buy some form of federal crop insurance. Those producers already in compliance with federal Sodbuster and Swampbuster programs don't have to worry about doing anything more.
The new dairy margin insurance program doesn't have to be in place until September, but it's perhaps the second-most sweeping reinvention of income protection. Shifting from a menu of dairy support programs to a margin insurance program means a complete development of a new insurance product. Individual producer milk production bases need to be calculated, as well as broader county-wide bases.
New permanent livestock disaster assistance will also be tough and may take longer than lawmakers want, Vilsack told Politico, a Capitol Hill newspaper. Twenty-four Senators have called on Vilsack to expedite implementation of the new programs - the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Livestock Forage Program - due to recent disasters for which ranchers are awaiting federal assistance. While these programs are similar to those included in the 2008 Farm Bill, Vilsack said changes made by Congress this time around mean the programs have to be reevaluated to see if new rulemakings are necessary. Vilsack said he'll try and shortcut the process, but as far as losses from the 2012 drought or the 2013 Dakotas/Nebraska blizzard, he couldn't say how quickly checks will be going out.
Obama Announces "Made in Rural America" Initiative at Farm Bill Ceremony
In praising agriculture's contribution to the overall American economy, President Obama took the opportunity at the Farm Bill signing ceremony at Michigan State University last week to announce a new initiative called "Made in Rural America," a program designed to connect rural business with federal investment and export promotion programs.
The White House Rural Council has been told to give rural business assistance in getting help with export promotion by helping them coordinate the benefits of programs at USDA, the Department of Commerce, the SBA, the Export-Import Bank, the Office of the Special Trade Representative and other federal agencies.
The Rural Council will host a conference later this year to connect rural businesses with investment leaders, high-ranking government officials and economic development experts. This session will highlight investment opportunities in energy, biofuels, infrastructure, telecommunications, health care, manufacturing and local agriculture. The Council will also hold five "forums" around the country to promote the program over the next nine months, the President said. These sessions will provide training on the basics of exporting, gaining federal support and how to participate in trade shows around the country.
Local USDA rural development staff will be given special training to counsel businesses on export opportunities and resources; provide export counseling to help U.S. business connect with foreign customers; coordinate Administration-wide efforts to promote rural-produced goods and services at trade events, and educate leaders across the country on the importance of rural exports and connect businesses with federal assistance and non-USDA trade promotion activities.
Congress, White House Moving on California Drought Aid
Rushing to counter what some are calling the worst drought in California history, Congress and the White House are putting together an array of assistance programs. The President was in Fresno, CA, this week meeting with state leaders and pledging expedited assistance under existing federal programs.
Obama announced an administration-wide set of actions to help California, including $100 million in emergency livestock assistance; $15 million in targeted conservation assistance for "the most extreme and exceptional drought areas"; $5 million in emergency watershed protection; $60 million for food banks in the state, and $3 million in emergency water assistance grants for rural communities with water shortages. USDA has already dispensed about $35 million in EQIP funding and conservation innovation grants.
California's Senators were joined by Oregon Senators this week and introduced a bill to authorize $300 million in further emergency federal assistance - needing no budget offset - and require federal and state agencies to better coordinate in responding to drought situations. Oregon is suffering the effects of the same drought, declaring a drought emergency two months earlier than last year.
The bill would require expedited environmental reviews of water projects and movement of water to areas of greatest need, or as one media report put it, balancing the needs of California's nearly $45-billion agriculture industry with communities in danger of losing drinking water.
The House approved a measure to end the state/federal coordination it believes is worsening the state drought/water supply situation, overriding local, county, and in some cases, state water authorities in California to move water industries and areas of greatest need. The House GOP says the bill would "restore some water deliveries" cut off because of federal regulations and activist lawsuits, secure water rights, save money and ensure a reliable water supply for state agriculture and residents.
$100 million of the $300 million authorized by the Senate bill would go to USDA to pay for programs under its emergency conservation and watershed protection authorities, and to provide aid to farmers and ranchers in designated counties. Up to $25 million would be spent by other federal agencies on drought and wildfire mitigation.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D, CA) and Barbara Boxer (D, CA), joined Gov. Jerry Brown calling the House action "divisive," a measure that would roll back environmental protections and endanger local fish populations. "The goal of (the Senate) bill is to bring us together to address this crisis rather than divide us," Boxer said.
FDA Publishes Draft Approach to Classify High-risk Foods; Seeks Additional Comments for Relevance to Animal Food
As noted in the last FSMA weekly update, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently opened a docket to obtain comments and scientific data and information that will help to implement section 204(d)(2) of the Food Safety Modernization Act. The section requires FDA to designate high-risk foods, including animal feed and pet food that additional record keeping requirements are appropriate and necessary to protect public health. FDA was required to publish the list of high-risk foods no later than one year after the date of enactment of FSMA. While FDA has missed that deadline, they intend to publish the list on the FDA website at the time FDA issues final rules to establish the additional recordkeeping requirements for high-risk foods (via the preventive control regulations).
Congress directed FDA to use specific criteria in making the risk determinations, including:
The known safety risks of a particular food, including the history and severity of foodborne illness outbreaks attributed to the food;
The likelihood the food has a high potential risk for microbiological or chemical contamination or would support the growth of pathogens;
The point in the manufacturing process of the food where contamination is most likely to occur;
The likelihood of contamination and steps taken during the manufacturing process to reduce the risk of contamination;
The likelihood that consuming the food will result in foodborne illness; and
The likely and known severity, including health and economic impacts, of a foodborne illness attributed to the food.
In the notice published in the "Federal Register," FDA seeks public comment and scientific data and information that will help FDA develop the process for implementing this provision. They also published a "Draft Methodological Approach to Identifying High-Risk Food" (including animal food). In the draft approach, FDA proposes to use a semi-quantitative risk ranking model (similar to one published by Anderson et al for produce) with some adjustments for the specific criteria Congress directed FDA to use. FDA would develop a comprehensive list of "food-hazard pairs" using the known or reasonably foreseeable hazards for each food. Then they would consider frequency of outbreaks and occurrence of illness; severity of illness, taking into account duration, hospitalization and mortality; likelihood of contamination; growth potential/shelf life; and manufacturing process contamination probability/intervention; consumption; and economic impact.
FDA would assign a score (from 0-9) for each food-hazard pair for each criterion. If multiple hazards are associated with a food, those scores would be cumulative. FDA would create the list of high-risk foods based upon the total scores for each food.
In the "Federal Register" notice, FDA is seeking comments on this approach and is asking for additional information on the following questions:
Considering available data, uncertainty with the data and the intended methods, what alternative approaches should FDA consider to identify high-risk foods?
What additional criteria should FDA consider, within the bounds of the factors listed in FSMA Section 204, to develop the list of high-risk foods? For example, should FDA consider economic impacts not related to public health, such as costs related to disruption in the food supply following a foodborne illness outbreak? If so, how should FDA determine those costs?
What changes should FDA consider making to the scoring system to ensure the range of possibilities for foods and hazards is comprehensive and to enhance the scoring?
What changes should FDA consider making to the approach to better evaluate risk associated with animal feed?
Should each criterion be weighted equally, or should different weights be assigned to each criterion? If the latter, which criteria should receive more weight and how should weights be assigned?
What practical alternatives are there to the Reportable Food Registry categories for classifying foods?
How should FDA consider food allergens, including major food allergens, in developing the list of high-risk foods?
FDA is also interested in the receiving information on scientific data and methods that can be used to assess the public health impact of acute or chronic exposures to pathogens and chemical contaminants, especially for chronic exposures to chemical contaminants. They are also seeking data on representative foods in each food category or commodity group:
A list of the pathogens and chemical contaminants likely to be found in the food;
The percentage prevalence of contaminants in the food;
The point in the manufacturing process where the contaminants are likely to be introduced in the food; and
The typical steps and control measures taken in the manufacturing process to reduce the possibility of contamination with the pathogen or chemical contaminant.
As you have read through this, you have likely noticed most of these criteria are based upon human health risk or illness potential, which may not be applicable to animal food. Also to note, FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine originally stated they would look at high-risk "facilities," which would not be commodity specific, but based on the facilities' history, types of products, etc. The approach of high-risk foods doesn't work as well for animal food, as (except for pet food) high-risk animal foods are usually not related to microbial hazards.
The American Feed Industry Association will be working with the Hazard ID/Preventive Controls Work Group to review this approach and provide comment to FDA. FDA has set a deadline for comments of April 7; however, AFIA is evaluating whether to request an extension on this comment period deadline given the load of other FSMA-related rules to review and comment on for the industry.
To keep track of FSMA updates from FDA, visit the FSMA webpage, www.fda.gov/fsma, and sign up for email updates. If you or your firm has questions or comments on this draft methodology, please contact Richard Sellers, AFIA senior vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs, at (703) 558-3569, Leah Wilkinson, AFIA director of ingredients, pet food and state affairs, at (703) 558-3560 or Henry Turlington, AFIA director of quality and manufacturing regulatory affairs at (703) 650-0146.
CDFA And USDA Host Informational Sessions on Drought Resources for Farmers, Ranchers and Farmworkers
Application deadlines for federal programs rapidly approaching
SACRAMENTO, February 12, 2014 - As California faces one of the driest years ever recorded,the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be holding informational sessions on drought resources for farmers, ranchers and farmworkers in several locations throughout the state in the coming weeks. These sessions will provide information on a variety of state and federal government programs designed to assist farmers with water conservation, crop insurance, and other on-farm management tools. Information on farmworker assistance programs will also be available.
Upcoming application deadlines for federal programs include crop insurance programs offered by the USDA's Risk Management Agency (February 28th); non-insured crop insurance offered by the USDA's Farm Service Agency (March 1st); and water conservation enhancements offered by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (March 3rd). These programs offer a variety on-farm assistance including cover crops and tree pruning as well as market-based risk management tools.
Informational sessions will be held on the following dates/locations:
February 18, 2014 - 6p.m. to 8p.m. (Redding/Palo Cedro) Junction Elementary School - Theater Room 9087 Deschutes Road Palo Cedro, CA 96073
February 19, 2014 - 6p.m. to 8p.m. (Salinas) Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner's Office 1428 Abbott Street Salinas, CA 93901
February 20, 2014 - 6p.m. to 8p.m. (Fresno) Fresno County Farm Bureau 1274 W. Hedges Ave Fresno, CA 93728
February 25, 2014 - 6p.m. to 8p.m. (Ventura/Camarillo) Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner's Office 555 Airport Way, Suite E Camarillo, CA 93010
February 26, 2014 - 6p.m. to 8p.m. (San Diego/Escondido) San Diego County Farm Bureau 1670 E. Valley Parkway Escondido, CA 92027
Several state/federal government entities will be represented at these information sessions, including: USDA Farm Service Agency; USDA Risk Management Agency; USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; USDA Rural Development; the California Employment Development Department; and other community resources.
CDFA continues to support California's drought response. The department has developed a web page as an information clearinghouse on assistance programs for farmers, ranchers and farmworkers; will continue to work with California food banks to address drought-related impacts; and is working with the University of California to develop a real-time assessment of drought impacts in farming and ranching communities.
With California facing one of the most severe droughts on record, Governor Brown declared a drought State of Emergency last month and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. Governor Brown has spoken with President Obama about crucial federal support during the ongoing drought, and the state continues to work with federal partners to ensure a coordinated drought response. The administration has also expressed support for federal legislation introduced by Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Representatives Jim Costa, Tony Cárdenas and Sam Farr.
Across state government, action is being taken. The Department of General Services is leading water conservation efforts at state facilities, and the Department of Transportation is cutting water usage along California's roadways by 50 percent. Caltrans has also launched a public awareness campaign, putting a water conservation message on their more than 700 electronic highway signs.
In January, the state took action to conserve water in numerous Northern California reservoirs to meet minimum needs for operations impacting the environment and the economy. The State Water Resources Control Board announced it would work with hydropower generators and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to preserve water in California reservoirs. Recently the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Fish and Game Commission restricted fishing on some waterways due to low water flows worsened by the drought.
The state is working to protect local communities from the dangers of extreme drought. The California Department of Public Health identified and offered assistance to communities at risk of severe drinking water shortages and is working with other state and local agencies to develop solutions for vulnerable communities. CAL FIRE hired additional firefighters and is continuously adjusting staffing throughout the state to help address the increased fire threat due to drought conditions. The California Department of Food and Agriculture launched a drought website to help farmers, ranchers and farmworkers find resources and assistance programs that may be available to them during the drought.
Even as the state deals with the immediate impacts of the drought, it's also planning for the future. Recently, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency and CDFA released the California Water Action Plan, which will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems and improve the resilience of our infrastructure.
Governor Brown has called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent, and the Save Our Water campaign launched four public service announcements encouraging residents to conserve and has resources available in Spanish. Last December, the Governor formed a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations and California's preparedness for water scarcity. In May 2013, Governor Brown issued an Executive Order to direct state water officials to expedite the review and processing of voluntary transfers of water and water rights.
For more information concerning drought resources for California farmers, ranchers and farmworkers, please visit - www.cdfa.ca.gov/drought
CPR & First Aid Certification Training
The InterWest-Medic First Aid BasicPlus is an adult CPR, AED and First Aid training program designed specifically for the occupational environment. This program will help employers meet OSHA, Cal-OSHA and other federal and state regulatory requirements for training employees in responding to and caring for medical emergencies at work and in the public. BasicPlus includes training in the use of AEDs (Automatic External Defibrillators), Personal Safety, Patient Assessment, Activiating EMA, Clearing and Protecting the Airways, Ventilations, Chest Compressions, Control of Bleeding, Managing Shock, Foreign Body Airway Obstruction and other First AId topics focused on the students' needs.
A bill that would require all federal agencies to issue monthly reports on the impact and status of proposed rulemakings was approved this week by the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee. The new bill would require each agency to publish online its annual calendar of proposed rules, along with all cost-benefit analyses and monthly updates. No rule could go into effect until all information had been posted for a minimum of six months, according to the bill's author Rep. Doug Collins (R, GA).
An amendment by Rep. Rob Woodall (R, GA) was accepted that would require agencies to include in the postings a report on the rule's impact on jobs. If such an estimate isn't available, then the posting would have to state no analysis of job impact was considered.
Collins said the bill brings the transparency to the rulemaking process the Administration has promised and regulated industry demands in order to make decisions.
The committee's ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings (D, MD) called the Collins bill "an effective moratorium on rules," saying the bill's requirements are redundant and that additional reporting would tax already over-burdened federal regulators. He used the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) proposed rule on sanitary rail/truck transport as a regulation that should not be delayed by arbitrary requirements.
"Ambush" Election Rule Back in Front of NLRB
The newly reconstituted National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) last week acted on a 3-2 party line vote to repropose its controversial "ambush election" rulemaking, an NLRB effort to speed up union elections. The rule is widely opposed by business because it overrides decades of workplace union election law by limiting employers' participation in the organizing process. A previous effort died in 2011 when a federal court struck it down as the NLRB approved the measure without a quorum of voting commissioners.
The NLRB says the new rules will make it easier for employees of non-union shops to vote to form a union by allowing unions to forego the normal election petition and secret ballot process in favor of allowing unions to distribute materials electronically, with any litigation brought by an employer over worker eligibility deferred until after the union election.
The NLRB says the new rules could take effect as early as this year if they're approved and published. The new proposal has a 60-day comment period and the board will hold a public hearing in April. Legal challengers are expected.
EPA's Fluoride-based Pesticide Ban Ended by Farm Bill
Action by EPA to ban a fluoride-based fumigant used to keep insects and rodents at bay in food processing facilities and warehouses was ended by language in the 2014 Farm Bill. The agency has been working since 2011 to ban sulfuryl fluoride over concerns about fluoride overexposure to the public.
Several environmental groups, including the Fluoride Action Network, which petitioned EPA in 2004 to ban the fumigant, were outraged. The fumigant is marketed by Dow AgroSciences.
Sulfuryl fluoride is used to protect cereal grains, dried fruits, tree nuts, cocoa beans and other foods and ingredients from pests, and congressional supporters of ending EPA's action said the primary reason was the agency action is unscientific.
There has been a great deal of news over the past few days regarding Obamacare (PPACA) that will impact all of us.
Yesterday the United States Treasury Department announced that employers with between 50 and 99 employees will not be required to provide health insurance until 2016. The number of employees is calculated by dividing the total number of worker hours per month by 120. This measurement must be calculated over a minimum six-month period.
Employers who have been proactive with health care reform should be applauded. However, I also imagine you are very frustrated right now about the perceived wasted time and energy.
For employers who have waited until 2015 to take action based on the initial postponement, I am grateful this decision was released in the first quarter so that time can be saved.
Several bills from both Republicans and Democrats are making their way through the house to change the employer mandate eligibility limit from 30 hours per week to 40 hours per week. We are watching this closely, but we do not expect results until the third quarter of 2014.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provided its share of news this weekend as well. The CBO released an economic report projecting the health care law may cause Americans to work fewer hours with an estimated job loss of two million by 2017, which is three times higher than originally reported. The Wall Street Journal featured an interesting perspective last week as well in this interview of economist Casey Mulligan published by Joseph Rago.
Immediately following the CBO report, the White House published a blog post arguing that people are now able to choose to work less because they can get free or low cost health care.
We are in interesting times.
Any thoughts? We would like to hear from you.
AFBF Appeal of Chesapeake Bay Decision gets Support from 21 States
The attorneys general from 21 states filed a friend of the court action this week in support of the American Farm Bureau Federation's (AFBF) appeal of a federal court decision to uphold EPA's Clean Water Act (CWA) authority to regulate runoff or total maximum daily load (TMDL) into the Chesapeake Bay. The top state lawyers argue the EPA action is illegal and sets a scary precedent for EPA action in other watersheds, including that of the Mississippi River.
The attorneys general agreed with AFBF's contention the court decision in favor of EPA usurps the states authority over water and land-use decisions within their borders. AFBF contends the agency will use the lower court's decision to try and set new TMDLs for nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment in other watersheds.
"Its (EPA's) actions have profound consequences for every state and cannot be squared with the CWA," said the attorneys general.
Attending the CGFA Annual Convention -- Just Three Steps
It is as easy as 1, 2, 3.....
1. Book Your Hotel Room At The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa CLICK HERE
2. Book Your Flight (search your favorite Airline... Alaska, Hawaiian Air, United...)
3. Register On-Line and Use PayPal or Credit Card CLICK HERE
All the program information and forms are on the CGFA Website CLICK HERE