White House aide: USDA to work on GMO labeling bill schedule | TheFencePost.com

White House aide: USDA to work on GMO labeling bill schedule

Ray Starling, special assistant to the president for agriculture, trade and food assistance, talks to the North American Agricultural Journalists Monday morning.
Charles E. de Bourbon/The Hagstrom Report |

The U.S. Agriculture Department will attempt to follow the congressionally mandated schedule to create a plan for mandatory disclosure of genetically modified ingredients in food by July 2018, but companies will not be expected to comply at that time, the White House aide in charge of agriculture said April 24.

Ray Starling, the White House aide in charge of agriculture, trade and food assistance, told the North American Agricultural Journalists that USDA would “follow the law,” but that does not mean companies would not be required to comply with labeling by, for example, September 2018.

Starling also said that the Food and Drug Administration is engaged in revamping the standard nutrition facts label and is also interested in labeling for sodium and fiber, and that the Trump administration is having a conversation with the food industry about linking them all together in order to save the industry money.

The administration and the food industry, Starling said, are having “a real active conversation” about how to handle labeling while also meeting consumer demands for information.

In other remarks, Starling said:

President Donald Trump will issue an executive order April 25 for a review of regulations affecting agriculture over the next 180 days.

Exports are vital to increasing American farm incomes and that reducing costs will not be enough to increase incomes.

Moving the H2A agricultural worker program from the Labor Department to the Agriculture Department would not be “a silver bullet” for resolving the labor needs of agriculture and that “legislative changes” would be needed for a real solution to the labor problems.

While the administration’s initial plan was to address trade problems with Canada and Mexico through the North American Free Trade Agreement first, there may be more immediate progress with China and Japan because talks with those countries have gone well and because Robert Lighthizer, the nominee for U.S. trade representative, has not been confirmed.

When the Food and Drug Administration begins to inspect farms under the Food Safety Modernization Act, the administration wants to be sure that the FDA and the states that may directly do that work recognize the differences among farms and, for example, the differences in applying water early in the crop growing process and just before a crop is going to be harvested.

The president’s promise to reduce government intrusion into society and to provide more money for national security without raising taxes will have an impact on the administration’s views on the farm safety net.

Dairy has a particularly strong position in politics because “everyone” knows “what a dairy farmer is,” that milk is a perishable product and that cows have to be milked twice a day, but that there is “no silver bullet” to the dairy’s current conflict with Canada.

Trump has told him directly “I love farms,” and that he recognizes that farming is a hard way to make a living.