Washington Insider-- Friday

Bloomberg on Climate Progress

Here’s a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN’s well-placed observer.

Food-Related Regs Likely to Spike after Elections: Analysts

A surge in the number of new regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected following the November elections, according to Apr. 20 remarks by analysts at the Grocery Manufacturers Association's 2016 Science Forum.

The last rules and guidance related to the Food Safety and Modernization (FSMA) act are expected. Measures addressing intentional adulteration of the food supply and guidance documents on previously finalized FSMA rules are likely on the agenda, former FDA official and partner at Hogan Lovells, Joseph Levitt said.

Rules related to nutrition facts labeling, including the definition of fiber and the addition of added sugars, are likely to emerge, Ricardo Carvajal, director at Hyman, Phelps and McNamara, said. Guidance related to a previous rule requiring restaurants, supermarkets and movie theater chains to post calorie information on menus is also expected.

An FDA directive on reducing sodium intake now appears less likely. The House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the Fiscal 2017 ag appropriations bill on Apr. 19 that would prevent the agency from releasing guidance on the matter until after the conclusion of a study the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Academy of Medicine on healthy consumption of salt.


USDA's Vilsack: Will Move Ahead with GIPSA Rule

Moves by House appropriators to block USDA from finalizing the so-called "GIPSA rule" will not deter USDA from doing just that, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday.

An amendment blocking finalization of the GIPSA rule, named after the Grain Inspections, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), was included in a Fiscal 2017 ag appropriations bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee Apr. 19. Congress had passed similar provisions to block the GIPSA rule in previous appropriations bills, but they were not included in the Fiscal 2016 omnibus spending plan, allowing USDA to move forward with the rule.

The proposed GIPSA rule includes measures aimed at increasing the rights of contract poultry producers, including broadening the definition of unfair contracting practices, setting a base price for growers of the same variety of poultry and requiring processors release sample contracts in the interest of transparency.

The House amendment is “extremely problematic,” Vilsack said during an Apr. 20 speech at the 2016 Food Tank Summit. He noted that the rule is intended to “level the playing field” for contract poultry farmers.

Vilsack cited support from some farm organizations for the rule, however, many others in the industry do not support the rule. “It is puzzling to me, with as many farm organizations who represent farms and who speak on behalf of producers who express strong support for what we're doing,” that the Appropriations Committee would “disregard the will of its producers,” Vilsack said.

The ag spending plan now heads to the House floor, but leadership has yet to announce a date for floor consideration and a vote on the bill. Vilsack indicated that it is his intent to finalize the rule before the end of the Obama administration.


Washington Insider: Bloomberg on Climate Progress

Earlier this week, Michael Bloomberg wrote on his news service a comment on the New York signing ceremony today for the Paris Agreement on climate change. His message is that the court action that is holding up the administration’s Clean Power Plan will not prevent U.S. climate actions. He presents several reasons.

The first is that the federal government is not the primary force in the U.S. fight against climate change, and even if the court ultimately strikes down certain parts of the plan, the “U.S. will meet and probably exceed its commitment to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025.” He lists several reasons.

One reason is that the goal was so modest, he says. By 2015, the United States had already cut emissions by 11% compared with 2005 levels. “So our starting line was nearly halfway to our goal.” Given this progress, many of us believed that President Obama should have set a more ambitious target. Even now, with the Clean Power Plan on hold, a more ambitious goal is achievable, he thinks.

In addition, he asserts that, “No matter how the court rules, the federal government will still have a mandate under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon pollution from power plants, cars and trucks, and other major sources.”

In addition, “the public favors action,” Bloomberg says. He points to a poll last week funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies that questioned Democrats, Republicans and Independents living in four states--Florida, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin--where attorneys general have sued EPA to block the Clean Power Plan. He notes that more than six in 10 registered voters in Missouri, and seven in 10 in Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin support the plan. In Florida, nearly six in 10 voters said they’d be more likely to vote for a presidential or gubernatorial candidate who supported the plan, while just one in 10 said they’d be less likely.

Bloomberg also points out that the energy market is now changing rapidly. The U.S. coal industry is dying, “and it’s not coming back,” he says. The reasons are cheap gas, price-competitive solar and wind energy, and public opposition to polluted air.

He also thinks that the emissions control dynamics are city-led, and notes that more than 100 US cities have joined the Compact of Mayors, a global coalition of city officials committed to lowering local emissions, and publicly tracking the reductions. Moreover, mayors are talking with international leaders about big ideas, such as building and financing new clean energy electric grids, he says.

Still, states are acting, too, he says, that many “rightly” view the EPA’s targets as a floor, not a ceiling. “Governors of nearly half of US states have said they will proceed with the Clean Power Plan regardless of the Supreme Court’s temporary stay.” California has adopted a plan that imposes far deeper cuts on emissions than what the Clean Power Plan calls for. Michigan, Minnesota and Tennessee are on track to meet or exceed federal compliance targets without doing much more at all. Even heavily coal-dependent Kentucky, where elected officials have voiced opposition to the Clean Power Plan, will likely wind up meeting the plan’s targets, because of market forces driving more investment in cleaner energy.

Bloomberg notes that in 2009, Congress debated a cap-and-trade bill that would have cut emissions by 8% by 2015 that failed and some thought that was the last, best hope for making progress. Now, he says, new actors and forces have emerged, especially in modern markets and the Beyond Coal campaign. “The U.S. now has cut emissions by more than what the cap-and-trade bill hoped to achieve.”

Bloomberg argues that “the fact is that cities, states, businesses and community leaders collectively play a larger role in the future of emissions than the federal government.” He argues that the prospect of “a Supreme Court ruling striking down aspects of the Clean Power Plan should lead each group to accelerate its efforts, while also reassuring world leaders of our resolve to achieve and exceed the federal government’s goals.”

Bloomberg is a politician, of course, and his views on climate change are deeply opposed by many in both parties, and his assertions of public support also are likely to face challenges. However, his willingness to push this important issue into more open public discussion this election year may lead to more dialogue and debate. If, public support for “climate action” is as strong as he claims, it will be a force producers should watch closely as the anticipated changes emerge, Washington Insider believes.

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