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Inside Washington

House spending minibus avoids dangerous ag amendments

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AG SPENDING: Agricultural appropriations bill advance on Capitol Hill for funding year 2022.
ASA-backed amendment on biotech approvals and AFIA-supported funds for FDA included in package.

The U.S. House of Representative’s fiscal 2023 “minibus” package of six appropriations bills including the agricultural spending bill cleared the House floor on a vote of 220-207. Some bipartisan provisions important to agriculture crossed the finish line, but the Senate has not proposed any of its spending bills.  

The agriculture appropriations bill provides $27.2 billion – an 8% increase compared to FY 2022.

The National Sorghum Producers reported in their weekly newsletter that the bill provides equitable relief for specialty crop insurance policies under crop insurance. “Specialty crop policies are experiencing a deep and harmful reduction due to a flaw in the cap on administrative and operating expenses under the contract between crop insurance and the companies.

“Anti-agriculture amendments, which are often offered during consideration of Agriculture Appropriations Bills were ruled out of order thanks to the hard work of champions on both sides of the political aisle,” NSP says.

An amendment directing regulatory modernization and consistency for products of plant gene editing was passed with broad, bipartisan support. The amendment sponsored by Reps. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., and Jim Baird, R-Ind., was included in and considered as part of a larger package of amendments. The package was passed by a vote of 336-90.

The amendment would do several things, including directing the Food and Drug Administration to issue long-awaited draft guidance on how the agency would approach plant gene editing. It would also direct FDA to review and modernize its plant biotechnology consultation process, which has seen growing delays in recent years. Finally, while the amendment does not directly increase funds for FDA to do this work, it highlights the needs for an additional $3 million for FDA, which may be included as part of a future spending deal in the months ahead.

FDA clarity on the agency’s approach to plant gene editing is important for several reasons, explains the American Soybean Association. FDA’s co-regulators of biotechnology, USDA and EPA, have already undertaken and either finalized or are nearing completion of their own regulatory modernization efforts, though FDA’s progress has lagged. This delay risks fragmenting the regulatory system, which could obscure the path for researchers and developers on what expectations there may be to bring a product to market.

“Ultimately, this could impact the ability of growers to access new genetic innovations. Additionally, FDA’s biotechnology consultation program, through which developers consult with new plant varieties intended for food and feed purposes, has seen growing delays in recent years. A review of this process could bring new efficiencies to FDA’s program similar to those USDA and EPA have proposed or implemented through their own reviews,” ASA says.

ASA has long supported FDA issuing this draft guidance, which FDA has pledged to do since early 2019. In July 2020, ASA led a stakeholder coalition letter to FDA calling on the agency to swiftly commit to its pledge to issue the much-needed guidance. Additionally, ASA joined another coalition letter in April 2022 urging congressional appropriators to include this language in the appropriations funding bills. ASA will continue working with House and Senate lawmakers and coalition partners to try and secure similar language in the Senate funding bills, as well as in the final spending bill when an agreement is reached between the two chambers in the coming months.

Feed ingredient reviews

Baird and other bipartisan cosponsors also secured $8 million to the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine to help with expediting reviews for new feed ingredients. On average, studies have shown that it takes companies three-to-five years to get new ingredients through the FDA’s rigorous review process, which prevents innovation from making it to farmers and ranchers in a timely way.

“Rep. Baird said it best when he shared that it is important for the United States to have a regulatory framework that offers a timely and predictable path to the marketplace for feed ingredients and that can keep pace with the evolving science of animal nutrition,” says American Feed Industry Association President and CEO Constance Cullman. “The additional FDA funding for feed ingredient reviews in the House-passed spending bill is a huge win for the U.S. feed industry, putting us more on-par with other countries that continue to move forward with safe ingredients to enhance the safety, quality, environmental impact and nutrition of feed and pet food.”

Pet Food Institute President and CEO Dana Brooks says, “It’s critical that the U.S. has a regulatory framework that allows for the timely approval of pet food ingredients that represent the latest in nutrition science. The goal of pet food manufacturers is to develop recipes that deliver the nutrients our pets need to live long, healthy lives. A timely approval path allows manufacturers to make the latest innovations available to consumers as quickly as possible.”

The bill includes language supporting the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station, the National Scrapie Eradication Program, Wildlife Damage Management and Wildlife Services Methods Development.

 

TAGS: Policy
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