DES MOINES — The National Pork Producers Council was successful in blocking new, on-farm regulation of pork operations, which already are overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state agencies, from proposed food-safety legislation.
An amendment to the "Food Safety and Enhancement Act of 2009," H.R. 2749, which exempts livestock and poultry farms from a provision that expands the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authority over food producers, was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The provision would allow F.D.A. to conduct on-farm inspections, quarantine geographic areas over food-safety problems, create a tracing system for all food and require additional records to be kept. The provision will apply to the grain side of diversified livestock and grain operations.
U.S.D.A. already can quarantine animals for animal health reasons, N.P.P.C. pointed out, plus it has an animal identification system that can trace back an animal to its farm of origin. The association also said farmers keep records according to state laws and industry programs and that complying with F.D.A. record-keeping requirements would necessitate them overhauling their current record-keeping systems.
"We are pleased that the Energy and Commerce Committee addressed our key concerns with the food-safety legislation," said Don Butler, N.P.P.C. president. "They recognized U.S.D.A. has sufficient authority and the expertise to oversee livestock and poultry operations. But we still have some issues with the bill."
However, N.P.P.C. said it is still unclear whether the bill would allow F.D.A. to conduct an on-farm inspection of or quarantine the livestock side of a diversified operation that has a food-safety issue with the grain side of its business.
H.R. 2749, which the energy committee approved by voice vote, still must be considered by the full House; the Senate has a separate food-safety bill. NPPC, which supports strengthening the U.S. food-safety system, will continue to work with congressional lawmakers to resolve other areas of concern with food-safety legislation.
In related news, Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-Ill., offered an amendment to ban the use in livestock of certain antibiotics during recent consideration of the House bill. Although the amendment was withdrawn, the move could be a harbinger of future efforts to include an antibiotics ban in legislation. N.P.P.C. opposes restrictions on animal-health products.