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Farm Bill Dairy Negotiations Down to the Wire – GMA Seeks Voluntary GMO Labeling Standard Bill – USDA Advisors Mull Safe Handling Labels

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FARM BILL DAIRY NEGOTIATIONS DOWN TO THE WIRE: The fate of the dairy market stabilization program may not be decided until the last moment as farm bill negotiators try to finish their work in time to brief conferees on a framework agreement today and hold a conference committee meeting Thursday. Republican and Democratic lawmakers say agreements have been reached on some of the stickiest issues that negotiators had to deal with, such as how much to cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program spending.

"Yeah, we're okay there," said Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) Tuesday night about an agreement reached on SNAP cuts. Negotiators are prepared to move forward with a plan to cut food stamps by about $8 billion over 10 years, he said. But lawmakers admit that it's still unclear how the principal negotiators - Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) - will resolve the DMSP question. "I think we're close, but not completely done," said Hoeven on the issue. More on the farm bill talks from Pro's Bill Tomson is available here:

GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Morning Ag where your host is in strong support of Maryland lawmakers moving forward with a proposal to make the soft-shell crab sandwich the state sandwich. That sandwich with a Natty Boh and a slice of Smith Island Cake on a hot summer day? I'm sold. You know the deal - thoughts? News? Tips? Feel free to send them to and @jennyhops. Follow us @Morning_Ag and @POLITICOPro.

GMA SEEKS VOLUNTARY GMO LABELING STANDARD BILL: The Grocery Manufacturers Association, on behalf of the food industry, is pitching to Capitol Hill lawmakers a bill that would preempt any state mandatory GMO labeling requirement by creating a voluntary labeling standard, while setting up a system for premarket approval of products at FDA, Pro Ag reported yesterday. GMA's bill would also order FDA to define "natural." The full story and a draft outline of the bill GMA is pushing is available here:

AND PEOPLE WERE TALKING: Pro Ag's report yesterday on the discussion draft and talking points that GMA is using to pitch its bill to lawmakers, drew quite a reaction from pro-labeling groups.

- Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety, said in a statement: "It is clear that the Grocery Manufacturers Association will do anything in their power to keep the public from knowing what is in the food they are buying. We and our allies in the food movement will work to make sure that the public's right to know is protected and that this bill if introduced, is dead on arrival." The statement is available here:

- Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, in a statement said: "Clearly, this is an industry that will stop at nothing to hide from its customers basic information on what's in their food. If this proposal were to become law, it would make it impossible for any state to require labeling of GE foods, even if an overwhelming majority of its residents demand it." EWG's statement is available here:   

FDA REJECTS COURT REQUEST FOR 'NATURAL' FOOD DEFINITION: Maybe GMA's bill can succeed in at least one area where two federal courts have failed. FDA has declined a request by two federal courts to define the term "natural" for use on food labeling, lobbing the issue back to the judges. In a Jan. 6 letter to two judges in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and one judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, Leslie Kux, FDA's assistant commissioner for policy, says promulgating a formal definition of the term would be a long and complex process that would encompass scientific issues, consumer preference and food production technologies, and require participation by the Agriculture Department and others. The letter is available here:

NEXT LEADER OF INDIA MIGHT STOP BEEF EXPORTS: "Narendra Modi wants to suppress India's 'pink revolution.' Following current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's decision last week not to run for re-election, the focus shifts to Modi, the likely frontrunner among India's main candidates for the position. But he isn't calling for a political crackdown per se. Rather, he seeks an end to a surprising paradox: that India, the land of the sacred cow, is poised to overtake Brazil as the world's largest exporter of beef," reports Pro Trade's Eric Bradner.

"It is a little-known fact to many in the West, and one that is ignored by an Indian government more concerned with the economic benefits of the exports than the cultural reversal of slaughtering cattle, Modi has said. He has accused Indian officials of ignoring the enforcement of state laws that prohibit the export of cow meat and recently proposed building a habitat sanctuary for 10,000 cattle in his home state of Gujarat, near the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi." The whole story is here:

USDA Advisors mull safe handling labels: "USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service is considering revamping the safe-handling instruction labels it requires on meat and poultry products and has asked its top advisory group - the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection -  to suggest how to do it. For 20 years, raw or partially cooked meat or poultry has included a label reminding consumers to thoroughly cook the product. However, FSIS is considering if more information should be provided on the labels, especially since a recent Salmonella outbreak linked to raw chicken products sold by Foster Farms was blamed for sickening more than 400 people." The full story from Pro's Tarini Parti is available here: