Washington Week Ahead: FDA Overhaul Recommendations Pending Release

An independent commission is releasing a report this week that is expected to include far-reaching recommendations to address commonly perceived weaknesses in the Food and Drug Administration’s human nutrition programs.

A panel from the Reagan-Udall Foundation commissioned to analyze the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and the Office of Food Policy and Response received input from a variety of food and nutrition groups, as well as experts inside and outside the agency, many of whom submitted comments anonymously via an online portal. The panel is chaired by former FDA Commissioner Jane Henney,

A likely recommendation in the report released Tuesday is that the FDA establish a permanent deputy food commissioner reporting directly to the FDA commissioner, a goal of a broad coalition of industry and consumer groups that don’t usually agree on much. The panel is also likely to address the issue of regulatory transparency.

Criticism of the agency peaked this year after an infant formula crisis nationwide with the closure of Abbott Laboratories’ Sturgis, Mich., plant. You will only receive it four months after it has been sent to the agency.

Negotiations continue on Capitol Hill this week for a government-wide fiscal 2023 spending package that could include a new round of agricultural disaster relief.

Groups representing corn, cotton, soybeans, rice, sorghum, wheat and other commodities have appealed to congressional appropriators to expand the USDA’s emergency relief program to cover losses in 2022. The USDA created the existing ERP with funds that Congress allocated last year to cover 2020 and 2021 losses.

The House of Representatives, meanwhile, is scheduled to close another important item on its to-do list by considering a bill that would combine a reauthorization of water resources programs with the annual defense authorization measure. Agricultural shippers have been watching the water measure to see if it will include provisions to expedite the replacement of locks and dams and other infrastructure. The Senate version of the bill would increase the federal budget’s share of costs for inland waterway projects from 65% to 75%.

The Senate Agriculture Committee, which is using the lame duck session to conduct a review of farm accounts programs, will hold a hearing on farm research on Tuesday.

The committee’s senior Republican, Arkansas John Boozman, plans to use the hearing as an opportunity to determine research priorities for the next farm bill, said Speaker Patrick Creamer. Boozman “wants to ensure that when the next farm bill is enacted, it’s not about a scattered research approach, but rather an approach that focuses on the top priorities,” Creamer said.

On Tuesday, lawmakers will keep an eye on Georgia, where voters will decide whether Democrats control a 50-50 Senate again next year or have a one-seat pad, 51-49. In the most recent polls of likely voters, Senate Agriculture Committee member Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., has a narrow lead in his runoff with Republican Herschel Walker.

A Warnock victory would make it easier for Democrats to get President Joe Biden’s nominees to vote and weaken the power of Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., or any other individual Democratic senator.

Also this week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Monday will announce a new USDA initiative in support of President Joe Biden’s “Cancer Moonshot” mission to eradicate cancer.

The USDA initiative will “accelerate the preventive science and research needed to improve nutrition to support better health outcomes for all Americans,” according to a USDA report. The project “will also help meet the Biden-Harris administration’s goals of ending hunger, improving nutrition and physical activity, and reducing diet-related diseases.”

On the international front, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and officials from the National Security Council and State Department travel to Brazil on Monday this week to meet with officials from the governments of outgoing President Bolsonaro and President-elect Lula da Silva.

According to the White House, discussions will include “how the United States and Brazil can continue to work together to address common challenges, including combating climate change, ensuring food security, promoting inclusion and democracy, and managing regional migration.”

Here is a list of agricultural or rural events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):

Monday, December 5th

CSS of the American Seed Trade Association & Seed Expo 2022, Chicago.

3:00 p.m. – House Rules Committee meeting to consider legislation combining the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 and the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2023, H-313 Capitol.

Tuesday December 6th

10 am – Senate Agriculture Committee Hearing on Research Programs for Farm Bills, 328-A Rayburn.

1:30 p.m. – House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Hearing, “Solving the Climate Crisis: Key Accomplishments, Additional Opportunities, and the Need for Continued Action,” 2167 Rayburn.

Wednesday December 7th

1 p.m. – FDA Food Traceability Webinar.

Thursday December 8th

8:30 am – USDA releases weekly export sales report.

Friday December 9th

Noon – USDA releases global agricultural supply and demand estimates and a monthly crop production report.

Jacqui Fatka contributed to this report.

For more news, visit: www.Agri-Pulse.com

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