October 2020 Policy Snapshot: Policy and Legislation Movement

5 Oct 2020 1:00 PM | Administrator (Administrator)

From Florida moving to Phase 3 of Governor Ron DeSantis’ reopening plan to barely avoiding a government shutdown with a stopgap funding measure, a number of changes have taken place in Florida and around the nation. In our latest policy snapshot, we have put together the top food-related policy and legislation movement that you need to know about.

Florida Moves to Phase 3 of Recovery

On September 25th, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-244, moving all 67 counties into Phase 3 of the Safe, Smart, Step-by-Step Plan for Florida's Recovery. The order does the following: removes state-level restrictions on restaurants, provides that no COVID-19 emergency ordinance may prevent an individual from working or operating a business, provides that restaurants may not be limited by a COVID-19 emergency order by any local government to less than 50% of their indoor capacity; and states that if a restaurant is limited to less than 100% of its indoor capacity, such COVID-19 emergency order must quantify the economic impact of each limitation or requirements on those restaurants and explain why each limitation or requirement is necessary for public health. The order also suspends all outstanding fines and penalties, and the collection of such, applied against individuals related to COVID-19.

Commissioners Nikki Fried & Daniella Levine Cava Hold Agriculture & Food Insecurity Roundtable

On September 17th, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava hosted a roundtable discussion on agriculture and chronic hunger in South Florida. The discussion brought together agriculture producers, food distributors, and others to discuss COVID-19’s impact on food production and food insecurity. Fried and Levine Cava were joined at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus by Mark B. Rosenberg, President of FIU; Paco Velez, CEO of Feeding South Florida; Stephen Shelley, CEO of Farm Share; Justin Dunlap, Co-Founder and President of United Farmers Alliance; Anthony Olivieri, Founder of FHEED, a community food systems planning consultancy; Debra Iglesias, Founder and CEO of The Garden Network, a collaborative of organic farmers; Joanna Berens, President of Joanna Berens Hospitality, a hospitality industry consultancy; and Ginue Baptist, Program Administrator at Curley’s House Hope Relief Food Bank.

President Signs Stopgap Funding Measure to Avoid Government Shutdown

On October 1st, the President signed a bipartisan continuing resolution (HR 8337) to extend federal government funding through December 11th. The bill provides as much as $30 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corp., which the administration has used to send virus relief payments to farmers. The legislation also includes nearly $8 billion for vital nutrition assistance. It also extends and expands the Pandemic EBT program, which provides resources to families with children who otherwise would have received free or reduced-price meals at school, and extends several other key flexibilities for nutrition programs.

House Passes Updated Heroes Act

On October 1st, the House passed an updated version of The Heroes Act, addressing needs that have developed since the House passed an earlier iteration of the bill. The updated legislation includes:

  • Support for small businesses by improving the Paycheck Protection Program which serves small businesses and struggling non-profits, and delivers targeted assistance for the struggling restaurant industry;
  • More funds to bolster education and child care, with $225 billion for education – including $182 billion for K-12 schools and nearly $39 billion for postsecondary education – and $57 billion to support child care for families;
  • Additional direct payments of $1,200 per taxpayer and $500 per dependent;
  • Protections for payrolls by enhancing the new employee retention tax credit;
  • Worker safety insurances by requiring OSHA to issue a strong, enforceable standard within seven days to require all workplaces to develop and implement infection control plans based on CDC expertise;
  • Reinstatement of unemployment benefits, ensuring weekly $600 federal unemployment payments through January 2021 and preventing unemployed workers from exhausting their eligibility; and
  • Strengthens food security by addressing rising hunger with a 15 percent increase to the maximum SNAP benefit and additional funding for nutrition programs as well as targeted support for farmers and producers impacted by the crisis.

USDA and FDA Sign Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance Collaboration, Efficiency on U.S. Dairy Exports

On October 1st, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining strengthened coordination between the FDA and the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) to facilitate the export of milk and milk products from the United States. U.S. dairy exports are valued at nearly $6 billion annually.

FDA Proposes Establishing Additional Traceability and Recordkeeping Requirements

On September 21st, the FDA released a proposal to establish additional traceability recordkeeping requirements (beyond what is already required in existing regulations) for persons who manufacture, process, pack, or hold foods the Agency has designated for inclusion on the Food Traceability List. The proposed rule, “Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods” (Food Traceability Proposed Rule) is a key component of the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint and would implement Section 204(d) of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The proposed rule will be available for public comment until January 21st on the Federal Register here.

USDA Extends WIC COVID-19 Flexibilities for Duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

On September 21st, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the extension of more than a dozen flexibilities ensuring participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) continue receiving the food and health support they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The WIC waivers being extended allow for: participants to be approved for WIC without being physically present in a local office, remote issuance of benefits to any participant, flexibility in food package requirements, including dairy, grains, vegetables, and infant foods, and additional options for pick-up of food packages.

Farm System Reform Act Awaits Movement in Both Congressional Chambers

In December, 2019, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) originally introduced the Farm System Reform Act (FSRA) in the senate. In May, 2020, Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17) announced the introduction of a House of Representatives companion bill for the FSRA. The legislation would: hold meat companies responsible for harm caused by the factory farms that raise their animals, provide a $100 Billion voluntary buyout program for contract farmers who want to transition away from factory farms, strengthen the Packers & Stockyards Act to protect family farmers and ranchers, restore mandatory Country of Origin Labeling, prohibit the USDA from labeling foreign imported meat products as “Product of USA,” and put a “pause” on the construction of new or expanding large factory farms while also initiating a phaseout of existing large factory farms by 2040. Both bills are still in the first stage of the legislative process.

FLFPC will continue to monitor policy and legislation as the next few months are sure to bring big changes.

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