Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ag groups air complaints to lawmakers about guest worker program, FDA regulations, EPA rules

At a congressional hearing Wednesday, representatives from agricultural lobbies on detailed regulatory complaints about the Environmental Protection Agency's oversight of pesticides, new Food and Drug Administration food-safety regulations, the Department of Labor's management of farmworker programs and the prospect of labeling foods with ingredients from biotech crops, Chris Clayton reports for DTN The Progressive Farmer.

One of the main issues concerned the H-2A program, which provides guest visas for farmworkers. Maureen Torrey, vice-president of Torrey Farms, a vegetable, grain and dairy operation in New York, told lawmakers "that American farmers are affected by the fact that the immigration process is badly in need of repair and reform," Clayton reports. "She said her farm was 28 days behind planting onions this season because of problems getting H-2A guest workers approved." The Department of Labor, which has been swamped with H-2A applications, has failed to keep up with the volume of applications, leading Torrey to tell lawmkers, "We will see some of these fruits and vegetables no longer grown in the United States because of lack of labor."

EPA was criticized for its slow response "to written questions about the 'waters of the U.S.' rule that is tied up in federal courts" and for continually pushing back the approval date for weed-resistant herbicide dicamba, Clayton writes. Fruit and vegetable growers, producers and processors say they are struggling to understand the different rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act and "panelists also lamented the failure of the Senate to find a compromise on a GMO labeling bill even though the House voted out a bipartisan bill last year."

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research, told lawmakers, "Our government agencies need to stop implementing burdensome policies and regulations, which threaten the farm economy and pose challenges for producers and processors with little evidence of added benefit to food safety or production." (Read more)

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