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Industry-in-Brief: Obama’s 2017 Budget, Moves Against Antibiotic Resistance, Aquaculture in Federal Waters, more

February 12, 2016

Obama’s 2017 Budget Includes Variety of Agriculture Requests

The Obama administration released the President’s Budget for the fiscal year 2017 this week, drawing comment from a wide audience.

A small taste of what the big budget includes for agriculture: $700 million in USDA grants through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, $1.2 billion for in-house research at the Agricultural Research Service, and $94.5 million for construction and renovation based on the USDA’s facility modernization plan. There’s also a $25 million increase for competitive research funding to support biobased energy source development and $260 million earmarked for water technology research and development.

Making some weary, however, is a proposal in the budget to reform federal crop insurance programs. Read more about the proposed reforms here.

UN Issues Warning on Threat of Antibiotic Resistance

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has released a report stating that the use of antibiotics and antimicrobial agents is affecting livelihoods and food security in rural areas. FAO Deputy Director-General Helena Semedo addressed European ministers of health earlier this week, emphasizing that the rise of microbes that are resistant to current antibiotic treatments places animal health at risk and has dangerous consequences for rural regions.

President Obama recently made a request for additional funding to fuel the White House’s initiative targeting antibiotic resistance. The money would be used to help determine whether livestock producers are in fact cutting back on providing antibiotics for non-therapeutic purposes. In his 2016 budget proposal, Pres. Obama penciled in $77 million to assist the USDA with data collection.

Some agtech startups are hot on the trail of alternatives to traditional antibiotic therapies. Click here to read more about ag biotech company EpiBiome, its recent $6 million Series A, and how it’s disrupting the livestock antibiotic market.

In an Unprecedented Move, NOAA Opens Gulf of Mexico to Commercial Fishing

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) set precedent this week when it opened the Gulf of Mexico to commercial fish farming for the first time. Companies are now allowed to set up commercial fish farms in federally governed waters. The move is intended to help domestic producers compete with imports that have proven difficult to regulate. Some have criticized NOAA’s decision, citing the high costs likely associated with bringing aquaculture to the Gulf along with a host of environmental considerations. NPR’s The Salt has more on the issue here.

Click here to read about Catalina Sea Ranch, the first approved aquaculture operation in federal waters.

Iran Sets Sights on Fostering Domestic Agriculture

No longer facing sanctions, Iran is planning to position itself as a major food exporter, hoping the recent change in its international trade posture will facilitate investment in the country’s agriculture sector. Sources report that numerous foreign business delegations have already visited Iran’s capital city of Tehran after the US, European Union, and United Nations withdrew sanctions as part of a deal targeting Iran’s controversial nuclear development program. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated that the government is focused on limiting the country’s dependence on imports paid for with oil money and increasing its exports of agricultural and manufactured goods.

Eight Cannabis Companies are High on FDA’s Problem List

The FDA has issued eight warning letters to companies producing and marketing products containing cannabidiol (CBD). The letters criticize the companies for making certain health claims about their supplement products and for allegedly violating certain agency regulations regarding the labeling and marketing of new drugs.

The eight warning letter recipients include ABC Productions; Dose of Nature; Green Garden Gold;; Michigan Herbal Remedies;; PainBomb; and Santa Te Oils. Read more about the letters and how the cannabis industry is reacting here.

GMO Labeling Update

As July 1, 2016 looms on the horizon—the date that Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law is set to take effect—some federal lawmakers are eager to block the statute with a federal law preempting states from implementing labeling schemes. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Chairman of the Senate Ag Committee, is rumored to be on the verge of releasing a bill doing exactly that. Sources suggest the bill would not require GMO labeling, which would make it a tough pill to swallow for certain factions of the food and ag industry.

Meanwhile, state legislatures in Rhode Island and New Hampshire are taking a closer look at the GMO labeling debate. Read more over at Food Safety News.

USDA Allocates Funding to Fight Vicious Citrus Greening Disease

Citrus greening disease has compromised more than 75 percent of Florida’s citrus crops and posed a serious problem for citrus production around the country. US Secretary of Agriculture announced $20.1 million in new grants to university researchers and extension projects to find ways to fight the disease, which also referred to as Huanglongbing (HLB). To find out which Universities and research centers scooped up similar grants in 2015 and which states are particularly under siege, click here.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew:

  • AccelFoods launches second Fund with six new food and beverage companies.
  • Find out how the White House is motivating young people to get involved in the conversation about food system transformation in its Plate of the Union Challenge.

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