In this file:
· The pork industry wants a new inspection system. House Democrats are balking.
· Swine Inspection Program Would Increase Efficiency, Harvest Capacity
· House ag funding bill tackles ERS move, hog inspection rule
The pork industry wants a new inspection system. House Democrats are balking.
By Kimberly Kindy, The Washington Post
June 4, 2019
A proposal to dramatically change Department of Agriculture pork inspections, shifting some tasks from federal inspectors to plant employees, could be delayed until the agency’s inspector general completes an investigation into data used when the agency developed the new program.
A proposed rule the USDA published in February to change hog plant inspections would reduce the number of federal inspectors on slaughter lines by 40 percent in plants that chose to adopt the new inspection system. The proposal also places no restrictions on line speeds.
At least 17 congressional Democrats have objected to the proposed rule. During a hearing Tuesday, Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee ordered the investigation by the USDA’s inspector general. The order was made in an amendment to the 2020 budget for the Agriculture Department and was passed on a voice vote. The appropriations bill, which was approved 29 to 21, will move to the House floor for a vote. It must also clear the Senate.
The proposed rule “transfers vital inspection duties currently performed by USDA inspectors to company employees. That would be company-based inspections,” said Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, (D-Conn.), who introduced the amendment. “I believe it would endanger food safety, worker safety and animal welfare.”
The proposed hog slaughter rule was expected to be finalized this summer. An investigation by the inspector general could delay the proposal by months and, depending on the findings, could lead to changes or a withdrawal of the proposal, experts said.
The amendment calls for an investigation into all data used by the USDA to develop the proposal, including worker-safety data that was not publicly disclosed until after the closure of the public review and comment period for the proposed rule. It also said no federal funds should be used for the new system unless any problems identified by the inspector general were first addressed.
The North American Meat Institute, an industry group that supports the proposal, said, “This rule is founded on years of sound scientific data and experience. NAMI supports risk-based, science-driven food safety systems. Consumers deserve no less.”
The director of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Carmen Rottenberg, said the amendment was prompted by media accounts.
“The comments made by Rep. DeLauro highlight the need for unbiased media reporting,” Rottenberg said in a statement. “When facts and data are not relied upon, when reporters cherry pick information to feed a salacious headline, and when lobbyists are writing talking points for media publications and Members of Congress, the credibility of the public rulemaking process is undermined.”
The Washington Post has published two previous articles about the proposal, most recently on May 24.
In response to Tuesday’s vote, the National Pork Producers Council said...
Swine Inspection Program Would Increase Efficiency, Harvest Capacity
By Dan Kovich, NPPC
via FarmJournal's Pork - June 4, 2019
Kovich serves as the director of science and technology for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).
By the end of the year, a new swine inspection system could be in place, increasing efficiency and effectiveness, allowing for the rapid adoption of new food-safety technology in pork processing and potentially increasing U.S. harvest capacity. Unfortunately, some in the media have misreported the intent of the USDA proposal. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) fully supports the new proposed system and is actively rebutting these falsehoods as we await the final rule.
First and foremost, under the proposed New Swine Inspection System, the USDA’s authority remains unchanged. Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors retain their inspection roles at each stage of processing. Under traditional inspection, FSIS inspectors do both the inspection and the manual labor to prepare the animal for inspection. Under the new proposed system, plant employees will do a lot of that manual labor and screen the animals to get rid of those with obvious problems. Only an FSIS inspector can say “Yes” to move a carcass along the line, and 100% inspection remains the standard. This is more efficient and promotes a safer food supply.
Second, USDA and FSIS resources are limited. Freeing inspectors from production lines would allow them to focus on other critical areas such as sanitation, animal welfare, microscopic inspection, food-safety plans and general plant conditions. FSIS has refuted claims that it will reduce the number of federal inspectors and replace them with plant employees. FSIS states that it “will make inspection staff determinations on a case-by-case basis to ensure that 100% inspection and other critical public health activities are carried out.”
Finally, the new system would enable processing facilities to operate more efficiently and at higher capacity...
House ag funding bill tackles ERS move, hog inspection rule
Spending bill advances out of committee for full House action in weeks ahead.
Jacqui Fatka, Feedstuffs
Jun 04, 2019
On Tuesday afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee passed its fiscal 2020 agriculture appropriations bill, sending it to the House floor for a vote in the weeks ahead. Beyond setting funding levels, legislators also included riders to limit action on advancing a proposed hog inspection deregulation rule as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's proposal to move the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA).
The full House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment that prohibits USDA specifically from implementing a proposal to deregulate the inspection of hog slaughter plants until USDA’s Office of Inspector General reviews the data used to develop the proposed rule and USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) addresses the issues found by the review.
FSIS proposed a rule on Feb. 1, 2018, to create the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System, expanding upon a pilot program taking place in five plants that have experimented with a privatized inspection model since 1998. In those pilot plants, the number of FSIS inspectors was reduced and their jobs performed by company employees. The agency is expected to finalize the rule soon.
Those opposed to the rule have said the deregulation will result in a 40% slash in inspectors, who will be replaced with plant employees. However, FSIS is not reducing the total number of federal inspectors by 40% and is not replacing its inspection personnel with plant employees who will conduct inspections. “FSIS will make inspection staff determinations on a case-by-case basis to ensure that 100% inspection and other critical public health activities are carried out,” the agency said after a Washington Post article criticizing the rule ran earlier this spring.
Jim Monroe, assistant vice president of communications at the National Pork Producers Council, said his group “continues to support the proposed new pork inspection system -- one that has been tested and scrutinized for years -- as it is designed to increase efficiency and effectiveness of the federal inspection process and to provide more flexibility for adopting new food-safety technologies.”
ERS move ...
Additional priorities ...