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Food & Ag Policy Briefing: Funding proposals, UTPs law passes Parliament, UK announces Brexit tariff plan

Also, EU clears path to join international GI pact, Britain to ask for Brexit delay

US agriculture organizations have responded with dismay at proposed cuts to farm program funding in the Trump administration’s FY 2020 budget, but food safety programs could see an increase.

This article provides a review of the most significant talking points in the food and agriculture policy sphere for the past seven days.

The budget, titled ‘A Budget For A Better America’ projects a $1.1 trillion deficit for FY 2020, which would gradually fall over the next decade to $202 billion in FY 2029.

Proposed FY 2020 funding for USDA is set at $20.8 billion, a $3.6 billion or 15% decrease from 2019 estimated levels (including changes in mandatory programs and receipts).

Proposed changes to various farm and nutrition programs would result in $61.3 billion in savings over the next decade, that figure is up from the projected $58.3 billion in savings seen for similar changes proposed in the FY 2019 budget.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue defended the cuts, but Democrats and farming groups have spoken out against the proposals, pointing out that farm debt and debt-to-asset rations are climbing, bankruptcies are on the rise, and retaliatory tariffs deployed by China on US ag imports are weiging on prices and eroding export competitiveness.

Elsewhere in the budget, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will almost be fully funded, with unpopular user fees reintroduced to supplement the inspection budget.

Also the FDA’s food safety programs have not only escaped cuts, but are slated for funding increases, including a $16 million rise to support implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and another $16 million increase for better detection of foodborne illness.

Unfair Trade Practices

In Europe, the European Parliament approved a new set of rules aimed at protecting smaller entities within the EU food supply chain from Unfair Trade Practices.

Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness, who led the discussions for the European People’s Party (EPP), said the “hugely significant piece of legislation” will “curtail the capacity of the powerful to squeeze the less powerful in the food supply chain”.

Lawmakers also cleared the way for the EU to become a member of the Geneva Act, a multilateral treaty for the protection of Geographical Indications (GIs) managed by the World Intellectual Property Organisation, after Parliament, the EU Council and the European Commission reached a political agreement.

As reported by IEG Policy earlier in the week, the Greek Government is trying to obtain the GI recognition for some of its signature agri-food products and extend the protection for Feta cheese to important third markets.

Brexit drama

Meanwhile, it an extremely eventful week for Brexit, there were a series of votes in Parliament that saw Theresa May’s Brexit deal rejected for a second time, a non-binding motion to take a ‘no deal’ Brexit off the table, and, finally, confirmation that the UK government will request a three-month delay to exiting the bloc.

In between, the government also unveiled its proposed agri-food tariffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit, including tariffs for meat, dairy, rice and other products, which could have an impact on some of the UK’s main agricultural industries.

There are also questions over the plans for the Irish border, with the government stating it will not apply tariffs, nor check goods crossing it. This has raised eyebrows among trade professionals, some of whom claim it is incompatible with World Trade Organizations rules.

In case you missed it…

Other articles of note on IEG Policy last week:

EU and US reach tentative agreement on beef quotas

UK's plans to drop tariffs “could breach WTO rules”, EU farm chief says

Senators urge Trump to prioritize ag biotech approvals in US-China talks

House members to Lighthizer: No ag in US-EU talks 'unacceptable'

Sen. Baldwin reintroduces DAIRY PRIDE Act to ban dairy terms on plant foods

New scientific study finds health concerns with glyphosate-based herbicides

Week Ahead and Updates

US Washington week ahead: Congress out with trade, Fed policy in focus

EU agriculture policy diary (March 18-22): CAP reform, Brexit

This week in Food Chemical News Guide

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