FSA payment reductions ahead: The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is reminding farmers and ranchers who participate in FSA programs to plan accordingly in fiscal 2014 for automatic spending reductions known as sequestration. The Budget Control Act of 2011 mandates that federal agencies implement automatic, annual reductions to discretionary and mandatory spending limits. For mandatory programs, the sequestration rate is 7.2%. Accordingly, FSA is implementing sequestration for the following programs: Dairy Indemnity Payment Program, marketing assistance loans, loan deficiency payments, sugar loans, Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, Tobacco Transition Payment Program, 2013 direct and countercyclical payments, 2013 Average Crop Revenue Election Program, 2011 and 2012 Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program, storage, handling and Economic Adjustment Assistance for upland cotton. Conservation Reserve Program payments are exempt from sequestration and will not be reduced. FSA administrator Juan M. Garcia noted that "with the continuing budget uncertainty, Congress still may adjust the exact percentage reduction. At this time, FSA is required to implement the sequester reductions. Due to the expiration of the farm bill on Sept. 30, FSA does not have the flexibility to cover these payment reductions in the same manner as in (fiscal 2013). FSA will provide notification as early as practicable on the specific payment reductions. "
NPPC comments on antibiotic data: The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) submitted comments on the Food & Drug Administration's "Antimicrobial Animal Drug Sales & Distribution Annual Summary Report" data tables. NPPC said before releasing the report on animal drug sales and uses, FDA should provide background to allow appropriate interpretation of the data. NPPC also encouraged the agency to consider developing a question-and-answer section to explain the difficulties with comparing the amounts of antibiotics delivered to animals in feed or water with those that are in an injectable dosage form or used for different indications. Furthermore, NPPC urged FDA to make it clear in the report that the data will not provide a clear causal link between antibiotic use in animals and antibiotic resistance in human illness.
EPA appoints scientific integrity official: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency appointed Dr. Francesca Grifo as the agency's new scientific integrity official. In her new role, Grifo's responsibilities include coordinating and carrying out EPA's scientific integrity policy and chairing a standing scientific integrity committee. In a statement, EPA said Grifo has many years of experience in scientific research, academia and science policy and comes to EPA from the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Science is, and continues to be, the backbone of this agency, and the integrity of our science is central to the identity and credibility of our work," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said. "Dr. Grifo brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to EPA that will help continue our work to implement the agency's scientific integrity policy."
Hagen leaving USDA post: The top food safety official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Nov. 15 that she will be leaving her post. Elizabeth Hagen, undersecretary for food safety, said she will leave USDA in mid-December to embark "on a new challenge in the private sector." Hagen did not provide more specifics. Since mid-2010, she has been the political appointee responsible for the Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS). Hagen praised FSIS employees "for their tireless work in protecting the public health." Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Hagen was a hard-working public servant who imparted "sound leadership" to the thousands of FSIS workers under her charge. "Under Dr. Hagen's leadership, USDA adopted a new zero-tolerance policy for additional strains of Escherichia coli in beef and adopted new standards to protect Americans from salmonella and campylobacter in poultry," he said. "She also spearheaded the effort to develop a new Public Health Information System to better inform consumers about proper food handling and food safety to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses."
Bovine TB: According to Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) state veterinarian Dr. Dennis Hughes, NDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarians have discovered a case of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in a cow that originated from a small herd of cattle in Knox County, Neb. NDA and USDA staff have begun an aggressive epidemiological investigation with the assistance of the producer to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the positive case. The herd has been quarantined, tested and found to be negative for TB. The epidemiological investigation includes working to determine the locations and disposition of any of the cow's past herd mates.