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Yakima Dairies’ Agreement With EPA Is On, But So Is Federal Trial

A newly nominated federal judge ruled Friday that he wants to hear more about dairies in Washington State’s Yakima Valley that may be contributing to groundwater contamination, and he will do so at a civil trial that’s certain to be watched nationally because it challenges large-scale farming practices in the dairy industry.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice, a former federal prosecutor who last year joined the federal bench for the Eastern District of Washington based in Spokane, means the case brought by the Community Association of Restoration of the Environment (CARE) and the Center for Food Safety against five Yakima Valley dairies will proceed to trial.

Nitrate levels in the ground water –a problem in the Lower Yakima Valley going back a half-century or more–worsened because of dairy farming practices, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In a 2012 study of private wells around the dairies, EPA found that 20 percent of 331 wells tested had nitrate levels above federal drinking water standards, raising a health risk for the 24,000 residents of the area.

While there is agreement about the nitrate problem, there are differences over remedies. The five diaries and EPA in March entered into a legally binding agreement that requires specific actions to assure the area has safe drinking water. It was hailed by state and federal officials, but was not embraced by the plaintiffs in the civil case.

Charlie Tebbutt, attorney for CARE and the Center for Food Safety, told the Yakima Herald Republic newspaper that the EPA agreement “only reinforces the use of failed strategies that will not solve the contamination and will continue to put the Lower Valley residents at risk.”

In a statement issued after they won the judge’s decision to go to trial, the two groups said they ”look forward to obtaining an order from the Court requiring the dairies to clean up so that the taxpayers are not stuck with the bill while the dairies reap profits at the expense of the community.”

The five defendant dairies are: Cow Palace Dairy, George DeRuyter and Son Dairy, D&A Dairy, Liberty Dairy and H&S Bosma Dairy. The environmental lawsuit alleges that leaking lagoons and over-applied manure combined to form a major public and environmental health threat.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, nitrates are formed naturally when nitrogen combines with oxygen or ozone, and they are essential for all living things. However, high levels in drinking water poise a health risk, especially for infants and pregnant women.

Fertilizers, septic systems, animal feedlots, industrial and food processing wastes, CDC reports, can elevate nitrate levels in drinking water. Private wells are more likely to experience high nitrate levels during times of flooding or if they are dug too shallow.

Under the EPA agreement, the dairies will modify their nitrate handling practices and begin an eight-year groundwater-monitoring period to determine the effectiveness of their efforts. They will also test the private wells of their neighbors and provide alternative water sources for any wells found to exceed the federal drinking water standard for nitrate of 10 parts per million.

Alternative sources might include filtration systems, bottled water, or digging new deeper wells. The dairies would assume all costs.

EPA is also asking state agencies, including the Washington State Departments of Agriculture and Ecology, to strengthen management programs governing manure application so that it is applied at property rates. In addition, a Lower Valley Groundwater Management Area organization will work on comprehensive solutions to groundwater contamination.

Other actions called for in the EPA agreement include:

  • Farms will consider planting crops with longer root zones, which would absorb more nitrates as nutrients and send less into the ground.
  • Soil samples will be regularly tested for the presence of nitrates at acceptable levels.
  • An irrigation water management plan will be implemented to measure the amount of water applied and installation of sensors to minimize water movement below the root zone.
  • Nitrate contributions from silage storage will be reduced.
  • Manure lagoons will meet standards for leakage.
  • Reduced ponding of liquid in cow pens to cut infiltration of nitrogen-rich water.
  • Roof runoff ponding on the ground will be controlled.
  • All furrow irrigation will be eliminated within two years
  • Solid animal waste will be managed to minimize liquid leaching into the ground.

Food Safety News

Chiquita-Fyffes revised agreement benefits Chiquita shareholders

Chiquita Brands International Inc. and Fyffes plc have approved a revised agreement for the proposed combination of the companies. Under the terms of the amended agreement, Chiquita shareholders are expected to own approximately 59.6 percent of ChiquitaFyffes, an increase from 50.7 percent under the previous agreement.

The companies have also increased the termination fee payable to Fyffes from 1 percent to a more customary 3.5 percent of the total value of the issued share capital of Chiquita. In addition, under the revised agreement, Fyffes will also have the right to terminate the transaction if Chiquita shareholder approval is not obtained on or prior to Oct. 24, 2014. In such event, Fyffes may be entitled to a termination fee if Chiquita enters into another transaction within nine months.

“We are pleased with the increased value that these enhanced terms for Chiquita bring to our shareholders,” Ed Lonergan, Chiquita’s chief executive officer, said in a press release. “The Fyffes transaction is a natural strategic partnership that brings together two complementary companies to create a combined company that is better positioned to succeed in a highly competitive marketplace, while driving strong performance and value for shareholders as well as immediate benefits for customers and consumers worldwide.”

“The combination of Chiquita and Fyffes is strategic and compelling, creating the No. 1 banana company globally, with synergies that can only be achieved by these companies coming together,” David McCann, Fyffes executive chairman, said in the release. “This revised binding agreement, along with the additional synergies recently announced, reinforces our conviction that the Combination is the value-maximizing opportunity for both companies’ shareholders.”

Chiquita’s board has reaffirmed its recommendation that Chiquita shareholders vote for the Fyffes transaction; however, on Sept. 8 Fyffes granted Chiquita a waiver that permits it to engage in discussions with the Cutrale Group and the Safra Group, which had previously offered Chiquita a $ 611 million buyout offer.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

UFCW, Food 4 Less reach tentative agreement

Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union employed by Food 4 Less will vote Sept. 2 on whether to accept a contract offer that was finalized early Tuesday.

The union said it will recommend the members approve the three-year agreement, which offers raises throughout the term of the agreement and leaves the employer contribution to the health and welfare fund unchanged.

The previous contract, covering approximately 6,000 employees at 100 Southern California Food 4 Less stores, expired in June.

According to Bryan Kaltenbach, president of Food 4 Less, “We are pleased to reach an agreement that is good for our associates, who will continue to have a solid and competitive compensation package.”

He said the tentative agreement includes wage increases; quality, affordable health care; and financial support from the company for employee pensions.


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According to a union spokesman, the UFCW was prepared to go on strike Wednesday, “but at the 11th hour, the international union got more involved and Kroger [which owns Food 4 Less] got more involved, and we were able to break the stalemate hanging over our heads in the face-to-face meetings.

“Things moved forward from there, and we were able to negotiate an agreement late Monday and put the finishing touches on it this [Tuesday] morning.”

The spokesman declined to discuss specific terms of the contract before the membership had a chance to see those terms.

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Ecuador-EU agreement is “wonderful” for the banana sector

Ecuador-EU agreement is “wonderful” for the banana sector

Ecuador’s banana sector is optimistic about the Multiparty Trade Agreement reached on Thursday between the country and the European Union, which will make it possible to improve the tariff conditions.

“After almost four years of negotiations, we have finally signed a balanced agreement with the European Union, which maximises opportunities, reduces costs to a minimum, respects the country’s development model and allows us to protect our most sensitive sectors,” said Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Trade, Francisco Rivadeneira, after meeting in Brussels with EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.

At a press statement, Rivadeneira pointed out that “we have obtained the necessary tools and mechanisms to safeguard the interests of our most sensitive productive sectors.”

“We wanted the best situation possible for our banana sector, since we are Europe’s largest supplier,” said the Minister, adding that the agreement, which still needs to be approved by the European Parliament, will allow Ecuador to “maintain and expand our market share. Small growers will hereby be excluded from tariffs and/or safeguards.”

The country’s banana exporters, represented by Eduardo Ledesma, president of the Association of Banana Exporters of Ecuador (AEBE), described the agreement as “wonderful.”

The representative stated that “the agreement reached is tremendously positive for the banana sector, since we had a fairly high tariff differential with Colombia.” 

“Bananas are Ecuador’s most exported agricultural product, generating US$ 2,000 million per year, $ 600 million of which correspond to Europe. Ecuador is Europe’s main supplier, so we are very happy about the agreement, as it will reduce the differentials and allow for greater export opportunities,” said Ledesma, who assured that Ecuador will remain the EU’s largest banana supplier.

He added that he expects the agreement to be approved by the European Parliament by mid to late 2014 or early 2015.

Source: Fresh Fruit Portal

Publication date: 7/22/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Ecuador-EU agreement is “wonderful” for the banana sector

Ecuador-EU agreement is “wonderful” for the banana sector

Ecuador’s banana sector is optimistic about the Multiparty Trade Agreement reached on Thursday between the country and the European Union, which will make it possible to improve the tariff conditions.

“After almost four years of negotiations, we have finally signed a balanced agreement with the European Union, which maximises opportunities, reduces costs to a minimum, respects the country’s development model and allows us to protect our most sensitive sectors,” said Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Trade, Francisco Rivadeneira, after meeting in Brussels with EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.

At a press statement, Rivadeneira pointed out that “we have obtained the necessary tools and mechanisms to safeguard the interests of our most sensitive productive sectors.”

“We wanted the best situation possible for our banana sector, since we are Europe’s largest supplier,” said the Minister, adding that the agreement, which still needs to be approved by the European Parliament, will allow Ecuador to “maintain and expand our market share. Small growers will hereby be excluded from tariffs and/or safeguards.”

The country’s banana exporters, represented by Eduardo Ledesma, president of the Association of Banana Exporters of Ecuador (AEBE), described the agreement as “wonderful.”

The representative stated that “the agreement reached is tremendously positive for the banana sector, since we had a fairly high tariff differential with Colombia.” 

“Bananas are Ecuador’s most exported agricultural product, generating US$ 2,000 million per year, $ 600 million of which correspond to Europe. Ecuador is Europe’s main supplier, so we are very happy about the agreement, as it will reduce the differentials and allow for greater export opportunities,” said Ledesma, who assured that Ecuador will remain the EU’s largest banana supplier.

He added that he expects the agreement to be approved by the European Parliament by mid to late 2014 or early 2015.

Source: Fresh Fruit Portal

Publication date: 7/22/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Ecuador-EU agreement is “wonderful” for the banana sector

Ecuador-EU agreement is “wonderful” for the banana sector

Ecuador’s banana sector is optimistic about the Multiparty Trade Agreement reached on Thursday between the country and the European Union, which will make it possible to improve the tariff conditions.

“After almost four years of negotiations, we have finally signed a balanced agreement with the European Union, which maximises opportunities, reduces costs to a minimum, respects the country’s development model and allows us to protect our most sensitive sectors,” said Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Trade, Francisco Rivadeneira, after meeting in Brussels with EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.

At a press statement, Rivadeneira pointed out that “we have obtained the necessary tools and mechanisms to safeguard the interests of our most sensitive productive sectors.”

“We wanted the best situation possible for our banana sector, since we are Europe’s largest supplier,” said the Minister, adding that the agreement, which still needs to be approved by the European Parliament, will allow Ecuador to “maintain and expand our market share. Small growers will hereby be excluded from tariffs and/or safeguards.”

The country’s banana exporters, represented by Eduardo Ledesma, president of the Association of Banana Exporters of Ecuador (AEBE), described the agreement as “wonderful.”

The representative stated that “the agreement reached is tremendously positive for the banana sector, since we had a fairly high tariff differential with Colombia.” 

“Bananas are Ecuador’s most exported agricultural product, generating US$ 2,000 million per year, $ 600 million of which correspond to Europe. Ecuador is Europe’s main supplier, so we are very happy about the agreement, as it will reduce the differentials and allow for greater export opportunities,” said Ledesma, who assured that Ecuador will remain the EU’s largest banana supplier.

He added that he expects the agreement to be approved by the European Parliament by mid to late 2014 or early 2015.

Source: Fresh Fruit Portal

Publication date: 7/22/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Ecuador-EU agreement is “wonderful” for the banana sector

Ecuador-EU agreement is “wonderful” for the banana sector

Ecuador’s banana sector is optimistic about the Multiparty Trade Agreement reached on Thursday between the country and the European Union, which will make it possible to improve the tariff conditions.

“After almost four years of negotiations, we have finally signed a balanced agreement with the European Union, which maximises opportunities, reduces costs to a minimum, respects the country’s development model and allows us to protect our most sensitive sectors,” said Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Trade, Francisco Rivadeneira, after meeting in Brussels with EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.

At a press statement, Rivadeneira pointed out that “we have obtained the necessary tools and mechanisms to safeguard the interests of our most sensitive productive sectors.”

“We wanted the best situation possible for our banana sector, since we are Europe’s largest supplier,” said the Minister, adding that the agreement, which still needs to be approved by the European Parliament, will allow Ecuador to “maintain and expand our market share. Small growers will hereby be excluded from tariffs and/or safeguards.”

The country’s banana exporters, represented by Eduardo Ledesma, president of the Association of Banana Exporters of Ecuador (AEBE), described the agreement as “wonderful.”

The representative stated that “the agreement reached is tremendously positive for the banana sector, since we had a fairly high tariff differential with Colombia.” 

“Bananas are Ecuador’s most exported agricultural product, generating US$ 2,000 million per year, $ 600 million of which correspond to Europe. Ecuador is Europe’s main supplier, so we are very happy about the agreement, as it will reduce the differentials and allow for greater export opportunities,” said Ledesma, who assured that Ecuador will remain the EU’s largest banana supplier.

He added that he expects the agreement to be approved by the European Parliament by mid to late 2014 or early 2015.

Source: Fresh Fruit Portal

Publication date: 7/22/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Albertsons, Boise State announce stadium agreement

Albertson’s LLC has committed $ 12.5 million over 15 years to Boise State University for the naming rights to the school’s famous stadium.

The agreement secures Albertsons Stadium through 2028, subject to approval by the Idaho State Board of Education on June 18. This is a first for both Boise State’s stadium and for Albertsons.

“Since the 1930s, when Boise State and Albertsons each began just a couple of miles away from each other, the two institutions have shared a passion for the community and for improving opportunities in higher education,” Boise State President Bob Kustra said in a press release. “It’s appropriate that in the year we celebrate the anniversary of the Albertsons Library, we announce this new partnership that also will benefit Boise State students for many years to come.”

Boise State Director of Athletics Mark Coyle said the money from this naming agreement will come in over the life of the contract and will help the athletic department provide a first-class experience for more than 400 Bronco student-athletes.

The deal will make Albertsons the most prominent sponsor at the stadium. The transformation will be complete before the first home game in 2014. A final stadium logo and signage plan will be released this summer.

“It is our privilege to support Boise State,” Bob Miller, chief executive officer of Albertson’s LLC, said in the press release. “Albertsons has chosen to link our name with Boise State because we admire and share their commitment to the values of becoming part of the community, integrity, hard work, developing leadership and continuously learning and improving. This July marks our 75th year as a company, and growing our partnership with Boise State is a wonderful way to celebrate that accomplishment and extend our reach as the official grocer of Boise State athletics.”

This is not the first time Albertsons and Boise State have partnered in improving opportunities for Boise State students. In 1990, Albertsons CEO Warren McCain announced the company and its founding family would donate $ 6 million toward a $ 10 million expansion of the Boise State library. Five years later, when the renovations were completed, the library was renamed the Albertson Library and the Warren McCain Reading Room was dedicated. The library is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Albertson’s LLC also gave a generous land donation that helped Boise State secure the Ron & Linda Yanke Family Research Park.

Boise State thanked its multimedia rights partner Bronco Sports Properties, a property of Learfield Sports, for its help and cooperation in securing this agreement.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Albertsons, Boise State announce stadium agreement

Albertson’s LLC has committed $ 12.5 million over 15 years to Boise State University for the naming rights to the school’s famous stadium.

The agreement secures Albertsons Stadium through 2028, subject to approval by the Idaho State Board of Education on June 18. This is a first for both Boise State’s stadium and for Albertsons.

“Since the 1930s, when Boise State and Albertsons each began just a couple of miles away from each other, the two institutions have shared a passion for the community and for improving opportunities in higher education,” Boise State President Bob Kustra said in a press release. “It’s appropriate that in the year we celebrate the anniversary of the Albertsons Library, we announce this new partnership that also will benefit Boise State students for many years to come.”

Boise State Director of Athletics Mark Coyle said the money from this naming agreement will come in over the life of the contract and will help the athletic department provide a first-class experience for more than 400 Bronco student-athletes.

The deal will make Albertsons the most prominent sponsor at the stadium. The transformation will be complete before the first home game in 2014. A final stadium logo and signage plan will be released this summer.

“It is our privilege to support Boise State,” Bob Miller, chief executive officer of Albertson’s LLC, said in the press release. “Albertsons has chosen to link our name with Boise State because we admire and share their commitment to the values of becoming part of the community, integrity, hard work, developing leadership and continuously learning and improving. This July marks our 75th year as a company, and growing our partnership with Boise State is a wonderful way to celebrate that accomplishment and extend our reach as the official grocer of Boise State athletics.”

This is not the first time Albertsons and Boise State have partnered in improving opportunities for Boise State students. In 1990, Albertsons CEO Warren McCain announced the company and its founding family would donate $ 6 million toward a $ 10 million expansion of the Boise State library. Five years later, when the renovations were completed, the library was renamed the Albertson Library and the Warren McCain Reading Room was dedicated. The library is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Albertson’s LLC also gave a generous land donation that helped Boise State secure the Ron & Linda Yanke Family Research Park.

Boise State thanked its multimedia rights partner Bronco Sports Properties, a property of Learfield Sports, for its help and cooperation in securing this agreement.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Critics Say Food Safety Standards Could Be Threatened by U.S./EU Trade Agreement

Some call it the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) agreement. Others call it the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA).

Either way, it’s the trade deal currently under negotiation between the U.S. and the European Union (EU) for which the fifth round of talks start next week in Arlington, VA.

While proponents of the agreement say it will grow economies and increase jobs, consumer advocates argue that hasn’t been the case with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Instead, they worry about food safety, environmental, public health and labor standards being undermined as “trade barriers.”

The content of the negotiation talks is not made public, and even members of Congress have only limited access to relevant documents. There are, however, about 600 “corporate advisers” who have been allowed to review and comment on negotiation texts.

Under previous trade negations, such as NAFTA, texts were made available after each round of talks. The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and other consumer advocates are calling for a revival of this precedent.

This lack of access to texts has many people irked, and, as a result of the relative secrecy, the little we do know about T-TIP has come from leaked documents or position statements put out by industry.

One of the goals noted in a leaked EU position paper was for parties to “engage in such cooperation without unnecessary restrictions, including any institutional, statutory or other barriers/ inflexibilities.” It also calls for the creation of a Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) to have oversight in the regulatory systems of the U.S. and the EU.

At a briefing to Congress on Thursday, Gynnie Robnett, Outreach Coordinator at the Center for Effective Government and coordinator of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, said the first goal would place a “high burden of proof on governments to show the necessity of particular regulations,” and she said she thinks of the RCC as an international version of the U.S. government’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).

Food Issues As Trade Barriers

Another speaker at the briefing, CFS International Director Debbie Barker, said that “food issues under negotiations provide an … entrée point to really demonstrate to people that trade agreements are really relevant to their lives every day. It affects the food they eat and that they feed their children.”

She went on to say that food issues in T-TIP “are extremely contentious. This is probably the area in T-TIP that has the potential to stop the agreement.”

A CFS bulletin released Wednesday and authored by Barker explains that the proposed agreement is more focused on trade barriers than quotas and tariffs.

“Many analysts believe that a central aim of the negotiations is to dismantle many food safety regulations that corporations view as impediments to trade and profitmaking,” the report states.

It also lists the effects these barriers could have on food issues on each side of the Atlantic. Because the EU uses the precautionary principle as its regulatory foundation, it has more to lose from T-TIP in terms of food and farming issues.

In referring to the principle, the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development states: “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”

The precautionary principle “sets the bar higher for safety standards” in Europe, Barker told Food Safety News.

So, according to the CFS report, the EU’s bans on GE crops, meat from livestock treated with non-therapeutic antibiotics and growth hormones, ractopamine, and chemically washed poultry, plus standards for things such as animal welfare, organic equivalency, chemicals and nanotechnology, would all be in jeopardy under T-TIP.

In the U.S., standards for feed ingredients that include ruminant materials known to transmit mad cow disease could be relaxed, the zero-tolerance policy for Listeria and E. coli could be eliminated, GE-labeling initiatives across the U.S. could be threatened if the EU lowers its labeling requirements, “Buy American” policies could be on their way out, and Europe’s milk standards could be recognized as equivalent to U.S. Grade A.

“Yes, we’re concerned about citizen rights and the sovereignty of other countries, but, in effect, that also makes it harder for us in the U.S. then to be rallying or campaigning for higher standards here,” Barker told Food Safety News. “Once something gets set on an international level or in a trade agreement, the domestic regulatory agency can say that would be trade illegal.

“If we lower standards elsewhere, we are also, in effect, inhibiting chances of us raising our standards.”

These barriers to trade have the potential to lead to a situation like the current dispute Canada has with the U.S. regarding country-of-origin labeling.

“When you think of the time, the expense, the energy that our country is having to do in international tribunals to defend what should be domestically led standards — that, in itself, regardless of the outcome — is troubling,” Barker said.

Regulatory Mechanisms

“TTIP is not a conventional trade agreement; it’s a regulatory agreement,” said Baskut Tuncak, an attorney with the environmental health program at the Center for International Environmental Law, during the congressional briefing. “It’s a regulatory agreement that’s designed to prevent differences between the U.S. and EU, including the states of the U.S. and federal government.”

A major concern for advocates is the proposed Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism in T-TIP that gives foreign investors and corporations the opportunity to challenge sovereign governments on their domestic policies outside of a normal domestic judicial system.

And it’s not just a theoretical fear, they say. During the congressional briefing and in her report, Barker referenced the case of the U.S.-based Ethyl Corporation suing Canada in 1997 for banning a toxic gasoline additive called MMT.

The Canadian government ultimately settled the case, repealed their ban, paid $ 13 million in compensation and issued a public apology.

“It wouldn’t matter if a substance was liquid plutonium destined for a child’s breakfast cereal,” a lawyer for Ethyl said at the time of the settlement. “If the government bans a product and a U.S.-based company loses profits, the company can claim damages under NAFTA.”

Within the U.S. federal system, advocacy groups have ways to contribute concerns about the regulatory system — comment periods, for example — “however, a permanent regulatory council like T-TIP will definitely enhance corporate influence over standard-setting and it will make it much, much more difficult for consumer and other civil society groups to monitor or even know what’s being discussed and to provide immediate input involving the food that we’re all eating,” Barker said.

“Trade agreements should set at least a minimum standard for critical issues such as food safety and then also allow countries to set even higher standards to protect citizens and environments,” she added.

Globalization of Food Systems

Barker’s report also briefly addresses the issues of trade on climate change.

“Given the state of the planet and the urgent need to reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions, economic imperatives should aim to bolster local production mainly for local consumption, localize energy sources as much as possible, and root capital primarily in local or regional economies,” the report states.

“T-TIP is part of this global economic trade system in food that just doesn’t make sense on an environmental level, on a nutritional level and on a food security level,” Barker told Food Safety News.

Food Safety News

Agencies Reach Catfish Inspection Agreement Required by Farm Bill

After the 2008 Farm Bill moved the responsibility for catfish inspection from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the two agencies did not play nice with one another. Before long, USDA catfish inspection turned into a poster child for government duplication and wasteful spending. Millions were spent, both agencies had responsibilities, and no catfish really got inspected.

So, in the new 2014 Farm Bill, Congress decided to do something about it and included new language ordering FDA and FSIS to play nice and share their toys. New language inserted in the new Farm Bill mandates FSIS and FDA to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to improve interagency cooperation and prevent duplication.

FDA has now announced that it has successfully entered into a MOU with FSIS and posted it all on the government’s website.

In the announcement, FDA said the agreement covers Siluriformes fish and fish products, including commercial catfish, basa and pangasius.

The Catfish Farmers of America have not said anything publicly about the new MOU, but the organization behind moving catfish inspection to USDA is known to be pleased with the agreement.

“Food safety remains the industry’s singular driver in supporting FSIS inspection of catfish,” says a CFA insider. “Critics argued that both FSIS and FDA would be inspecting catfish, and this MOU is another step in ensuring that congressional intent to avoid duplication is carried out.”

The agreement, signed by FSIS Administrator Alfred V. Almanza and FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Director Michael M. Landa, commits the two agencies to:

  • Plan for an orderly, phased transition of primary regulatory authority over catfish and catfish-like products.
  • Follow already existing procedures for dual jurisdiction establishments. Such facilities are those than prepare, pack, hold, and otherwise handle both catfish and other fish products.
  • Coordinate issuing catfish-related guidance and regulation.
  • Agree that all other fish will remain FDA’s regulatory responsibility.

The Indianola, MS-based CFA has long claimed that 98 percent of the imported seafood against which its domestic product competes comes into the country without any inspection. For the past decade, it has worked to bring all catfish species under USDA inspection, and domestic catfish producers see the quick agreement by FSIS and FDA as signifying that the agencies are now committed to the transfer.

Not all are so sure. The National Association of State Directors of Agriculture said that several seafood groups, some of which did not think the MOU could be “a final resolution to the issue” were allowed to review a draft of the agreement.

Most U.S. farm-raised catfish are produced in the Gulf states. CFA claims the catfish and catfish-like species raised in Southeast Asia enter the U.S. with virtually no safety inspection and depress markets for the domestic catch.

The Russian Agency for Health and Consumer Right banned imports of Vietnam’s catfish-like pangasius last Jan. 31 after it found E. coli and listeria in fish products from 16 out of 35 exporting fish farms. Russia has not yet lifted that ban.

Food Safety News