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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Food Safety in the 111th Congress: H.R. 2749 and S. 510


Renée Johnson
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Sarah A. Lister
Specialist in Public Health and Epidemiology

Erin D. Williams
Specialist in Public Health and Bioethics

Vanessa K. Burrows
Legislative Attorney

American consumers spend more than $1 trillion on food each year. The combined efforts of the food industry and government regulatory agencies often are credited with making the U.S. food supply among the safest in the world. Nonetheless, public health officials have estimated that each year in the United States, many millions of people become sick, and thousands die from foodborne illnesses caused by any one of a number of microbial pathogens and other contaminants. At issue is whether food safety agencies have the resources, authority, and structural organization to safeguard the public, and whether they use resources effectively. Also at issue is whether federal food safety laws, first enacted in the early 1900s, have kept pace with the significant changes in the food production, processing, and marketing sectors since then.

In the 111
th Congress, several food safety bills have been introduced, and comprehensive legislation (H.R. 2749) has passed the House. The Senate also has reported a comprehensive bill (S. 510). Both bills mainly focus on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) food regulation rather than that of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees most meat and poultry. The bills would generally expand or modify existing FDA authorities rather than create a new food safety structure or authorities. H.R. 2749 is a revised version of H.R. 759, and was amended and approved by a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on June 10, 2009. The full committee further amended and approved H.R. 2749 on June 17, 2009, and the full House approved the bill on July 30, 2009, with a number of additional amendments intended to satisfy the concerns of agricultural interests. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee amended and approved S. 510, and later reported it in December 2009. In July 2010, potential amendments to the bill were being discussed, aimed at addressing issues of continued interest to various Senators. In August 2010, a group of Senate leaders released a manager’s amendment to S. 510 (the “Senate amendment”). Senate floor action has been held up by objections about the projected cost of the proposal, as well as attempts to further amend it.

Food safety legislation is a response to a number of perceived problems with the current food safety system. For example, a growing consensus is that the FDA’s current programs are not proactively designed to emphasize prevention, evaluate hazards, and focus inspection resources on areas of greatest risk to public health. Given its widely acknowledged funding and staffing constraints, and no explicit requirement on the frequency of inspections, the agency infrequently visits food manufacturing and other facilities to check sanitary and other conditions. The proposed bills would require (in different ways) food processing, manufacturing, shipping, and other regulated facilities to conduct an analysis of the most likely safety hazards and to design and implement risk-based controls to prevent them. The bills envision establishment of sciencebased “performance standards” for the most significant food contaminants. To help determine such risks and hazards, the bills propose improvement of foodborne illness surveillance systems.

The bills seek to increase frequency of inspections, tighten record-keeping requirements, extend more oversight to certain farms, and mandate product recalls if a firm fails to do so voluntarily. Major portions of the bills are devoted to more scrutiny of food imports, which account for an increasing share of U.S. consumption; food import shipments would have to be accompanied by documentation that they can meet safety standards that are at least equivalent to U.S. standards. Such certifications might be provided by foreign governments or other so-called third parties accredited in advance. The House-passed bill and Senate amendment differ in how to accomplish these objectives. The bills have provisions for certifying or accrediting laboratories, including private laboratories, to conduct sampling and testing of food.


Date of Report: November 16, 2010
Number of Pages: 102
Order Number: R40443
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Grazing Fees: Overview and Issues


Carol Hardy Vincent
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Charging fees for grazing private livestock on federal lands is a long-standing but contentious practice. Generally, livestock producers who use federal lands want to keep fees low, while conservation groups and others believe fees should be increased. The formula for determining the grazing fee for lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service uses a base value adjusted annually by the lease rates for grazing on private lands, beef cattle prices, and the cost of livestock production. Currently, the BLM and FS are charging a grazing fee of $1.35 per AUM. The fee is in effect from March 1, 2010, through February 28, 2011. The collected fees are divided among the Treasury, states, and federal agencies. Fee reform was attempted but not adopted in the 1990s. Current issues include instances of grazing without paying fees and efforts to retire certain grazing permits.


Date of Report: November 18, 2010
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: RS21232
Price: $19.95

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Food Safety in the 111th Congress: H.R. 2749 and S. 510


Renée Johnson
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

The combined efforts of the food industry and government regulatory agencies often are credited with making the U.S. food supply among the safest in the world. Nonetheless, public health officials have estimated that each year in the United States, many millions of people become sick, and thousands die from foodborne illnesses caused by any one of a number of microbial pathogens and other contaminants. At issue is whether the current food safety system has the resources, authority, and structural organization to safeguard the health of American consumers, who spend more than $1 trillion on food each year. Also at issue is whether federal food safety laws, first enacted in the early 1900s, have kept pace with the significant changes that have occurred in the food production, processing, and marketing sectors since then.

In the 111
th Congress, several food safety bills have been introduced, and wide-ranging legislation (H.R. 2749) has passed the House. The Senate also has reported a comprehensive bill (S. 510). Both of these bills mainly focus on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) food regulation rather than that of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA, which has oversight of most meat and poultry). The bills would generally expand or modify existing FDA authorities rather than create a new food safety structure or authorities. H.R. 2749 is a revised version of H.R. 759, and was amended and approved by a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on June 10, 2009. The full committee further amended and approved H.R. 2749 on June 17, 2009, and the full House approved the bill on July 30, 2009, with a number of additional amendments intended to satisfy the concerns of agricultural interests. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee amended and approved S. 510, and later reported it in December 2009. In mid-July 2010, potential amendments to the bill were being discussed, aimed at addressing issues of continued interest to various Senators. In August 2010, a group of Senate leaders released a manager’s amendment to S. 510. Senate floor action has been held up by objections about the projected cost of the bill, as well as attempts to further amend it.

Food safety legislation is a response to a number of perceived problems with the current food safety system. For example, a growing consensus is that the FDA’s current programs are not proactively designed to emphasize prevention, evaluate hazards, and focus inspection resources on areas of greatest risk to public health. Given its widely acknowledged funding and staffing constraints, and no explicit requirement on the frequency of inspections, the agency rarely visits food manufacturing and other facilities to check sanitary and other conditions. In response, the bills would require (although in different ways) food processing, manufacturing, shipping, and other regulated facilities to conduct an analysis of the most likely safety hazards and to design and implement risk-based controls to prevent them. The bills envision establishment of sciencebased “performance standards” for the most significant food contaminants. To help determine such risks and hazards, the bills propose improvement of foodborne illness surveillance systems.

The bills seek to increase frequency of inspections, tighten record-keeping requirements, extend more oversight to certain farms, and mandate product recalls if a firm fails to do so voluntarily. Major portions of the bills are devoted to more scrutiny of food imports, which account for an increasing share of U.S. consumption; food import shipments would have to be accompanied by documentation that they can meet safety standards that are at least equivalent to U.S. standards. Such certifications might be provided by foreign governments or other so-called third parties accredited in advance. The House-passed bill and Senate amendment differ in how to accomplish these objectives. The bills have provisions for certifying or accrediting laboratories, including private laboratories, to conduct sampling and testing of food.



Date of Report: November 10, 2010
Number of Pages: 93
Order Number: R40443
Price: $29.95

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Monday, November 15, 2010

USDA Rural Housing Programs: An Overview

Bruce E. Foote
Analyst in Housing Policy

Title V of the Housing Act of 1949 authorized the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make loans to farmers to enable them to construct, improve, repair, or replace dwellings and other farm buildings to provide decent, safe, and sanitary living conditions for themselves or their tenants, lessees, sharecroppers, and laborers. USDA was also authorized to make grants or combinations of loans and grants to those farmers who could not qualify to repay the full amount of a loan, but who needed the funds to make the dwellings sanitary or to remove health hazards to the occupants or the community.

While the act was initially targeted toward farmers, over time the act has been amended to enable USDA to make housing loans and grants to rural residents in general. Currently, the USDA housing programs are administered by the Rural Housing Service (RHS). The housing programs are generally referred to by the section number under which they are authorized in the Housing Act of 1949, as amended.

The rural housing programs include loans for the purchase, repair, or construction of singlefamily housing; loans and grants to remove health and safety hazards in owner-occupied homes; loans and grants for the construction and purchase of rental housing for farmworkers; loans for the purchase and construction of rental and cooperative housing for the elderly and for rural residents in general; rental assistance payments to make rental housing more affordable; interest subsidies to make homeownership loans more affordable and to enable production of rental housing that is affordable for the target population; and loans for developing building sites upon which rural housing is to be constructed.

The collapse of the mortgage market in 2007 has resulted in an increased demand for home loans that are insured or guaranteed by the federal government, including the USDA Section 502 guaranteed home loans. By May 2010, the FY2010 funding for the USDA guaranteed loan program was exhausted.

As enacted on July 29, 2010, the 2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act, P.L. 111-212, authorized additional appropriations for Section 502 guaranteed loans for the remainder of FY2010. The act also permits USDA to charge lenders a guarantee fee of up to 3.5% of the mortgage amount. In addition, lenders may be charged an annual fee of 0.5% of the mortgage balance for the life of the loan. These changes in the guarantee fees are intended to enable the Section 502 guaranteed home loan program to operate with little or no need for positive credit subsidies in FY2011 and beyond.

On September 30, 2010, a continuing resolution was enacted, P.L. 111-242, which funds all USDA housing programs at the FY2010 level through December 3, 2010.



Date of Report: October 29, 2010
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: RL33421
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Agriculture and Related Agencies:FY2011 Appropriations


Jim Monke, Coordinator
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Melissa D. Ho
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Megan Stubbs
Analyst in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy

Renée Johnson
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Tadlock Cowan
Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development

Dennis A. Shields
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Remy Jurenas
Specialist in Agricultural Policy


The Agriculture appropriations bill provides funding for all of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except the Forest Service, plus the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, in some cases, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Appropriations jurisdiction for the CFTC is split between two subcommittees—the House Agriculture appropriations subcommittee and the Senate Financial Services appropriations subcommittee.

The FY2011 Agriculture appropriations bill has seen no floor action and only limited committee action. The House Agriculture appropriations subcommittee marked up its draft on June 30, 2010, but the full committee did not vote on or report the bill, and thus only summary information is publicly available. The full Senate Appropriations Committee reported its version of the Agriculture appropriations bill (S. 3606, S.Rept. 111-221) on July 15, 2010. With no further action on the bill, agencies are being funded at FY2010 levels under a continuing resolution (P.L. 111-242) that expires on December 3, 2010.

The House subcommittee markup would provide $23.1 billion of discretionary spending (including CFTC). This is $256 million less than the official FY2010 discretionary total (-1.1%). However, the FY2010 appropriation included two large items that are not in the FY2011 budget: $350 million of supplemental dairy assistance, and $173 million for a rural housing program that was replaced by user fees. If these two items totaling half a billion dollars are excluded from FY2010 for comparison, the House FY2011 draft is $215 million more than the FY2010 adjusted total (+0.9%; unlike the Administration and Senate bill, the House draft retained $52 million for the rural housing program, making this adjustment $471 million rather than $523 million).

The House subcommittee draft has increases for FDA (+$214 million), CFTC (+$92 million), foreign assistance (+$110 million), Farm Service Agency accounts (+$107 million), and meat and poultry inspection (+18 million). Agricultural research programs are nearly flat in total. These increases are partially offset by a $95 million reduction in domestic nutrition assistance, a $25 million reduction in animal and plant health programs, and a larger amount of reductions from mandatory programs than in FY2010.

The Senate-reported bill would provide $23.2 billion of discretionary spending (including for comparison the amount for CFTC from another appropriations bill). This is $142 million less than the official FY2010 discretionary total (-0.6%), but $381 million more than FY2010 if the above adjustment for dairy and rural housing is made (+1.7%). The Senate bill’s discretionary total is $114 million more than the House draft. For accounts shared by both the House and Senate Agriculture appropriations subcommittees, the Senate bill is $89 million higher (+0.4%) than the House draft. The Senate bill is relatively more generous than the House for conservation, animal and plant health programs, Farm Service Agency programs, and nutrition assistance. The Senate bill is relatively less generous than the House draft for foreign assistance and FDA (although both still would receive more than FY2010).

Mandatory programs would receive $11.1 billion more (+11%) than in FY2010 in the Senate bill, with all of that increase in domestic nutrition assistance. Child nutrition amounts are up $1.3 billion (+8%) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) is up $9.9 billion (+17%) over FY2010. This continues a trend of rapidly rising food assistance programs because of the economic downturn in recent years. Mandatory appropriations for farm support programs are flat. Amounts for mandatory programs are not available for the House draft.



Date of Report: November 4, 2010
Number of Pages: 61
Order Number: R41475
Price: $29.95

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Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
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Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.