April 15, 2022
In This Issue:
  • EPA Releases Workplan to Address Backlog of Endangered Species Pesticide Reviews
  • First Senate Farm Bill Hearing Set for April 29
  • New Podcast: Telling Our Sustainability Story
  • FDA Food Safety Record Under Fire
  • New Dietary Guidelines May Examine ‘Ultra-processed’ Foods
EPA Releases Workplan to Address Backlog of Endangered Species Pesticide Reviews

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week released a workplan to address its obligations to protect both endangered species and register pesticides. The plan identifies as the agency’s highest priority those evaluations that are required to meet court-ordered deadlines of more than 50 pesticide active ingredients, including neonicotinoids.

“Completing this work will take EPA past 2040, yet the work represents less than 5% of all the (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act) decisions in the next decade for which ESA obligations exist," EPA's press release said. "This is an unsustainable and legally tenuous situation, in which EPA’s schedule for meeting its ESA obligations has historically been determined through the courts," the agency said. "The work-plan must provide a path for the agency to meet those obligations on its own, thus protecting endangered species while supporting responsible pesticide use.”

The next priority will be new registrations for conventional pesticide active ingredients following the agency’s announcement earlier this year that it would not register new active ingredients without first assessing their impacts on endangered species. The plan also calls out the Pesticide Program’s low staffing levels (603 in 2021 compared to 808 in 2005) as compounding the extent of the backlog.

The National Potato Council is currently in the process of reviewing the workplan along with others in the agricultural community and will be providing suggestions to EPA to assist with the plan.
First Senate Farm Bill Hearing Set for April 29

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Ark.) announced Wednesday the committee will hold its first hearing on the 2023 Farm Bill on April 29 in Michigan.

The hearing, entitled “Growing Jobs and Economic Opportunity: 2023 Farm Bill Perspectives,” will be held at Michigan State University and will include a yet-to-be-named slate of Michigan farmers and ag stakeholders as witnesses.

The House Ag Committee has already held a number of hearings for the bill, which expires at the end of 2023.

Senator Stabenow said in a press release that bipartisanship is a priority of the committee in developing the next farm bill. “Our most recent Farm Bill passed with the strongest bipartisan support ever. Senator Boozman and I intend to continue that strong bipartisan tradition. I am pleased to welcome him to Michigan to join me in hearing from farmers and others impacted by the Farm Bill about how we can strengthen this important legislation, grow our economy, and build a stronger food supply chain,” Senator Stabenow said.
New Podcast: Telling Our Sustainability Story

Sustainability and climate change continue to be a part of the conversation, both in policy discussions and within the potato supply chain. During Potato Expo 2022, two of the industry's sustainability leaders sat down with the Eye on Potatoes Podcast to talk about how we are working to ensure the potato industry remains at the front of agriculture’s sustainability success story.

  • John Mesko, Executive Director, Potato Sustainability Alliance
  • Mike Wenkel, COO, National Potato Council

Download the new episode here or subscribe to Eye on Potatoes wherever you listen to podcasts.

The Eye on Potatoes Podcast is made possible by our presenting sponsor, Syngenta. Delivering solutions to help producers face the potato industry’s complex challenges, Syngenta provides growers with unmatched field expertise along with an array of effective products. Explore syngenta-us.com/spud-doctor to discover solutions for your potato growing obstacles.
FDA Food Safety Record Under Fire

Last Friday, POLITICO released a multi-chapter article scrutinizing the FDA’s delayed response to food safety, recalls, and foodborne illness outbreaks, especially when it comes to produce and PFAS, the “forever chemicals.” The news site conducted an independent investigation based on more than 50 interviews, finding that the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) “has repeatedly failed to take timely action on a wide range of safety and health issues the agency has been aware of for several years, including dangerous pathogens found in water used to grow produce and heavy metal contamination in baby foods.”

The investigation analyzes the FDA’s structure and lack of attention to the food portion of the department, arguing that there is a deep-rooted culture of indecision and power struggles that ultimately cost consumers. The article goes on to cite the CDC, estimating that “more than 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 people die from foodborne illnesses each year,” to drive home the impact of the FDA’s negligence.

In response to POLITICO’s article, the head of CFSAN, Susan Mayne, said her division was working with limited resources and funding, stating that the entire nutrition group, which includes allergen labeling, infant formula, and medical foods, is staffed by under 70 people.

This week, lawmakers responded by calling for answers and immediate actions. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf expressing her concern on the delays with critical issues like infant formula and urged the FDA to act and fulfill its mission of ensuring the safety of our food supply. Additionally, Representative Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) tweeted about the article and requested a briefing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee to prioritize food safety.
New Dietary Guidelines May Examine ‘Ultra-processed’ Foods

USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this week announced proposed questions for the next Dietary Guidelines Advisory (DGA) Committee to address, including a new focus on weight maintenance and “ultra-processed” foods.
The proposed questions would represent a shift toward more discussions of weight and obesity in the DGA. Previous guidelines have focused on dietary advice for healthy Americans, not those with obesity, hypertension or diabetes. Additionally, the most recent edition of the guidelines does not include any mention of “processed foods,” which would mark a change should the committee address them moving forward. 
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