Industry-in-Bref: FarmLink Divides Company in Two, Dietary Guidelines and Menu Labeling Developments, more

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FarmLink Announces Company Split

FarmLink, a precision agriculture company, has split its business in two. One branch will continue operating under the FarmLink name and focus on advanced data analytics through hardware and software sales. The other branch will hone in on equipment sharing under the name MachineryLink Solution and will continue evolving from a leasing company into an online equipment sharing platform akin to Uber and Airbnb, according to a press release.

FDA to Begin Testing for Glyphosate in Food

As the federal agency responsible for food safety, the US Food and Drug Administration tests food products and inputs for agricultural chemicals. Now, the agency will begin testing for glyphosate, a widely used pesticide found in Monsanto’s Round Up. The move comes on the heels of the World Health Organization’s panel of cancer experts declared glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen.” The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) admonished the FDA’s current practices regarding pesticide residue monitoring.

National Academy of Medicine Prepares to Review Dietary Guidelines

The fiscal 2016 omnibus spending bill included a quiet provision calling for an independent review of how the Dietary Guidelines are prepared. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines created quite a firestorm with a proposal that sustainability would be included as a consideration and through the final report’s recommendations regarding reducing sugar intake and a passing comment about American’s appetite for red meat. The USDA has rallied academics, industry professionals, and consumer groups to discuss what the review will involve. Read more about the DG battle here.

US House of Reps Passes Bill to Loosen Menu Labeling Rules

The FDA recently issued a final rule that would add provisions to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act under the Affordable Care Act. The rule requires restaurants and food retailers to list a number of calories in each item along with other nutritional information. The requirements were slated to take effect December 1, 2015, but the FDA pushed the compliance date to December 1, 2016. In the recent omnibus spending bill, Congress delayed the FDA’s ability to enforce the rule until after the dietary guidelines were published. Now, the US House of Representatives has passed the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, which gives restaurants and food vendors broader leeway in complying with the rule’s requirements. The White House and some consumer interest groups oppose the legislation, arguing that the new flexibility guts the rule’s effect and undermines its purpose. The Senate will now consider the bill, and if it passes, the President will have to decide whether to exercise veto power.

Convenience Stores Could be Forced to Stock Healthier Food

The US Department of Agriculture released a proposed rule on Tuesday that would require convenience stores to increase the variety of perishable and healthy food items they stock to qualify for food stamp acceptance. According to text in the 2014 Farm Bill, convenience stores would need to stock seven varieties of foods touching four staple food categories to qualify for participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Trade group National Association of Convenience & Fuel Retailing has expressed some initial concerns about the proposed rule, arguing that the agency has exceeded its authority and “drastically” imposed the eligibility requirements.

GMO Labeling Update

Senator Roberts is rumored to be preparing a bill that would preempt states from enacting GMO labeling laws and which would stop Vermont’s law from taking effect this summer. Rumors are still swirling that Secretary Vilsack and other key policy officials are trying to hammer out a compromise on GMO labeling. The deal is rumored to consist of a voluntary labeling scheme that uses scannable QR codes.

Cuban Trade Minister Calls for End to 55-Year-Old Embargo

Rodrigo Malmierca recently spoke at the US Chamber of Commerce, marking the first time in 50 years that a Cuban trade minister has graced the Chamber’s stage. Malmierca called for President Obama to lift the 55-year-old embargo on imports from Cuba so American companies can import Cuban rum and cigars.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew:

  • The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling this week stating that California’s Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, which allows consumers and other companies to bring charges for “nonfunctional slack fill” in product labeling, is preempted by federal law as it applies to poultry and meat products.
  • NASA is teaming up with the American Society for Mechanical Engineers Foundation and Star Trek to challenge students in grades K-12 to tackle futuristic space food production. Students are tasked with designing 3D printable hardware that could be used to grow food in orbit.
  • Benzi Ronen of Farmigo, in a post on TechCrunch, outlines the trials and tribulations of food e-commerce and thinks delivery costs may be what’s bringing so many startups to shutter their digital doors.
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