Despite the association’s concerns, Kopperud says AFIA has made significant progress toward securing the feed industry’s well-being. Both the Senate and House bills carry firewalls between human food regulation and animal feed/pet food regulations. However, there is always room for improvement.
“Although we’ve made progress, we’d like to toughen up those firewalls as the Senate moves forward with their bill,” says Kopperud. “We’d like there to be a mandate on the FDA commissioner and the secretary of Health and Human Services that when considering any regulation of human food, they must take into account whether or not it would be logical or reasonable to impose the same regulation on the feed industry.”
The threat of additional FDA inspections is another concern Kopperud is confident will be solved.
“The feed industry will likely not be subject to further FDA inspections,” says Kopperud. “There is language written in both the Senate and House bills that recognizes current feed industry good manufacturing practices (cGMPs) as risk-based, so there would be no reason for the FDA to increase registered feed mill inspections.”
Kopperud says a majority of the feed industry’s progress is thanks to Sen. Durbin and his staff, as well as Rep. Waxman and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who along with their staffs took measures to reach out to several industry and consumer groups with stakes and concerns over the legislation.
“The Durbin bill is a truly bipartisan bill and right now is as close to a consensus document as you can get between industry, consumer groups and others,” says Kopperud. “The Dingell bill in the House is now much better than originally drafted because both sides of the aisle cooperated on ensuring the bill improves food safety, but in a way the agency and the industry can handle. When S. 510 was introduced, AFIA endorsed it because Durbin took a good even-handed approach. Our communication will continue, but we endorse the direction it is heading.”
Although H.R. 2749 has been approved, S. 510 has yet to be voted on in the Senate. When the bill will be voted on is dependent upon how quickly other pieces of legislation are resolved.
Other high-profile pieces of legislation, mainly healthcare reform, are taking precedence over the bill, possibly pushing its approval to 2010.
“In the absence of a major recall that would bring food safety to the forefront, there is a 50/50 chance that it would go through this year,” says Kopperud. “There is a good chance that healthcare reform and climate change/cap and trade issues will take priority.”
Climate change/cap and trade concerns
Another hot button issue for the feed industry is climate change and cap and trade legislation. On June 26 the House approved H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, which was designed to create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce pollution and transition to a clean energy economy. While those initiatives sound noble, the bill proposes using land idling and a cap and trade policy to reach its goals, which could impact the cost of food and feed, while putting the United States at a competitive disadvantage among the world’s leading crop producers.
Several associations across the feed and grain industry, including the NGFA, currently oppose H.R. 2454. A main component of the bill includes an incentive to convert crop land to forest or grassland in exchange for tradable carbon credits.
Idling land puts U.S. crop producers at a competitive disadvantage. According to the NGFA, land in major U.S. crops has steadily declined since 2000, while world land planted has increased by 153 million acres. The land taken out of production in the United States would inevitably be made up for by other crop producing nations who do not employ similar conservation efforts.