Washington Insider -- Tuesday

Food Safety and Backyard Poultry

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

MPP Payments Triggered for March/April

With the national average margin for the March/April 2016 two-month consecutive period at $7.149/cwt, USDA announced that will mean an Margin Protection Program (MPP) payment rate of $0.851/cwt., for dairy operations that selected an $8 margin trigger coverage level and a payment rate of $0.35/cwt, for dairy operations that selected a $7.50 margin trigger coverage level for 2016.

Eligible producers receive a payment based on the amount of covered production history elected by the dairy operation for calendar year 2016.

This marks the first MPP payments that have been triggered since the July/August 2015 period and the first time that payments will be made for the $7.50 margin trigger.

MPP-Dairy payments will be sequestered at a rate of 6.8%.

USDA Announces Cotton Ginning Cost-Share Program

An estimated $300 million in cost-share assistance payments to cotton producers will be provided through the new Cotton Ginning Cost-Share program, in order to expand and maintain the domestic marketing of cotton, USDA has announced.

The Cotton Ginning Cost Share program is aimed at helping with ginning costs and to facilitate marketing, USDA said, and will provide, on average, approximately 60% more assistance per farm and per producer than the 2014 program that provided cotton transition assistance.

Through the Cotton Ginning Cost-Share program, eligible producers can receive a one-time cost share payment, which is based on a producer's 2015 cotton acres reported to FSA, multiplied by 40% of the average ginning cost for each production region. With the pressing need to provide assistance ahead of the 2016 ginning season this fall, USDA will ensure the application process is straight-forward and efficient.

The program estimates the costs based on planting of cotton in 2015, and therefore the local FSA offices already have this information for the vast majority of eligible producers and the applications will be pre-populated with existing data. Sign-up for the program will begin June 20 and run through Aug. 5, 2016 at the producer's local FSA office. Payments will be processed as applications are received, and are expected to begin in July.

Washington Insider: Food Safety and Backyard Poultry

Food Safety News typically is a low-key, down to business service, even when the news is grisly. However, it now is raising its voice a little to report that seven separate Salmonella outbreaks are underway across 35 states. More than 300 people have been affected in the first four months of this year, it says.

However, FSN also says that the source of the outbreaks likely is very close to home, indeed. All of the outbreaks are being blamed on live poultry from "backyard flocks," which it says may be dangerous even when they appear to be completely healthy.

The group reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that public health officials from local to federal levels, along with veterinary and agriculture officials across the country are involved in the outbreak investigations. Of 238 patients interviewed so far, 91% of them reported having contact with live poultry in the week before their symptoms began.

The report says that the sources of the outbreaks are widespread and that those who are ill have reported purchasing live baby poultry from several different suppliers, including feed supply stores, co-ops, hatcheries and friends in multiple states. Those sickened told investigators that they bought their poultry for several reasons--to produce eggs, learn about agriculture, have as a hobby, enjoy for fun, keep as pets, or to give as Easter gifts. The "poultry contacts" took place at their home, someone else's home, work or school settings.

FNS calls the baby poultry "cute, cuddly and contaminated." It cites the CDC, noting that "Regardless of where they are purchased, live poultry may have Salmonella germs in their droppings and on their bodies, feathers, feet and beaks even when they appear healthy and clean. The germs can also get on cages, coops, hay, plants, and soil in the area where the birds live and roam," the CDC warned.

"People, especially children, can be exposed to Salmonella by holding, cuddling, or kissing the birds and by touching things where the bird lives, such as cages or feed and water bowls."

Public health investigators are using the CDC's PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of these outbreaks. The system is a "national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories that does DNA fingerprinting on Salmonella and other pathogens isolated from ill people.

"Backyard poultry" are only one of several types of food production that health experts say are dangerous and seem to be growing, observers say. For example, the Food and Drug Administration says non-pasteurized milk and milk products can provide "a wealth of nutrition benefits" but also can harbor dangerous microorganisms—and pose serious health risks.

It cites CDC data that "between 1993 and 2006 more than 1,500 people in the United States became sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk. In addition, CDC said that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products."

Traditionally, "backyard" poultry were mostly banned from urban areas, observers say, but that more recently keeping small flocks as pets or for fresh eggs has become something of a fad. CDC is clearly concerned about that trend, and the large scale of the current outbreak and the number of people affected suggests that the recent trends may face increasing scrutiny, especially if food borne illness outbreaks continue to be widespread and dangerous, Washington Insider believes.

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