Tag Archives: USDA

WASHINGTON– Hy-Vee Fresh Commissary, an Ankeny, Iowa establishment, is recalling approximately 6,233 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) beef and chicken products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. The products contain milk, a known allergen, which is not declared on the product label.

The RTE beef and chicken products were produced on Sept. 7-8, 2019. The following products are subject to recall: [View labels (PDF only)]

  • 20-oz. plastic packages of “HyVee. mealtime MONGOLIAN-STYLE BEEF” bearing lot code 19250 with a Best If Used By date of 09/14/19 and lot code 19251 with a Best If Used By date of 09/15/19.
  • 20-oz. plastic packages of “HyVee. mealtime BEEF WITH BROCCOLI” bearing lot code 19250 with a Best If Used By date of 09/14/19 and lot code 19251 with a Best If Used By date of 09/15/19.
  • 20-oz. plastic packages of “HyVee. mealtime CASHEW CHICKEN” bearing lot code 19250 with a Best If Used By date of 09/14/19 and lot code 19251 with a Best If Used By date of 09/15/19.
  • 20-oz. plastic packages of “HyVee. mealtime SWEET ORANGE CHICKEN” bearing lot code 19250 with a Best If Used By date of 09/14/19 and lot code 19251 with a Best If Used By date of 09/15/19.
  • 20-oz. plastic packages of “HyVee. mealtime GENERAL CHICKEN” bearing lot code 19250 with a Best If Used By date of 09/14/19 and lot code 19251 with Best If Used By date of 09/15/19.
  • 20-oz. plastic packages of “HyVee. mealtime SESAME CHICKEN” bearing lot code 19250 with a Best If Used By date of 09/14/19 and lot code 19251 with Best If Used By date of 09/15/19.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 51558” or “P-51558” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to retail locations in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

The problem was discovered during FSIS in-plant verification activities.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider.

FSIS is concerned that some product may be stored in consumers’ refrigerators or freezers. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify that recalling firms are notifying their customers of the recall and that actions are being taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution lists will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

Consumers with questions can contact Hy-Vee Customer Care Representatives at (800) 722-4098. Media with questions about the recall can contact Tina Potthoff, senior vice president of communications, Hy-Vee Fresh Commissary, at (515) 975-9211.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, released the following statement today after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that more than $3 billion is available for disaster relief for agricultural producers, including Nebraska ag producers affected by flooding, through the agency’s Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+):

“Nebraskans in agriculture were hit hard by the severe weather this year, which is why I worked to add our state to this spring’s disaster relief bill. Starting Wednesday, September 11th, ag producers facing losses because of the March storm can apply for assistance through USDA’s WHIP+ program. With access to this much-needed relief, our families can continue to make progress as they rebuild and recover.”

 

More information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

WHIP+ is available for eligible producers who have suffered losses of certain crops, trees, bushes, or vines in counties with a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration or a Secretarial Disaster Designation (primary counties only). Disaster losses must have been a result of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms, or wildfires that occurred in 2018 or 2019.

Nebraska producers can apply to receive up to $125,000 for losses related to flooding. Some producers could receive a higher payment—up to $250,000 or $500,000—if ¾ or more of their income is derived from farming or another agriculture-based business.

Click here to read more about WHIP+ eligibility.

LINCOLN, NEB. – “Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) would like to thank United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue for his recent announcement of a Packers and Stockyards investigation to examine beef pricing margins following the fire and subsequent shutdown of the beef processing facility in Holcomb, Kansas. USDA’s efforts to fully investigate the situation is a positive development in this unfortunate situation,” NEFB president Steve Nelson said.

NEFB sent a letter Aug. 22 to USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach urging USDA to fully “investigate monitor and address concerns steaming from the fire.” NEFB asked the agency to shift additional USDA regulatory staff to other plants as needed and to utilize the Packers and Stockyards Division to monitor any unfair, unjustly discriminatory, or deceptive practice in the procurement of livestock

“We are grateful USDA is doing their due diligence in opening this investigation. NEFB would strongly encourage USDA to prosecute any anti-competitive activities if they are found.”

(Washington, D.C. August 28, 2019) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement regarding the beef processing facility in Holcomb, Kan.:

“As part of our continued efforts to monitor the impact of the fire at the beef processing facility in Holcomb, Kan., I have directed USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division to launch an investigation into recent beef pricing margins to determine if there is any evidence of price manipulation, collusion, restrictions of competition or other unfair practices. If any unfair practices are detected, we will take quick enforcement action. USDA remains in close communication with plant management and other stakeholders to understand the fire’s impact to industry.

I have spent this summer visiting with cattle ranchers across the country, and I know this is a difficult time for the industry as a whole. USDA is committed to ensuring support is available to ranchers who work hard to the feed the United States and the world.”

 Nebraska Farm Bureau is urging the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to use the full authorities granted to the agency to monitor and address concerns stemming from the shutdown of a Holcomb, Kansas beef packing facility following a recent fire. The temporary closing of the plant, which accounted for five percent of the daily U.S. cattle slaughter, has led to considerable consternation for both cattle producers and cattle markets alike.

In an Aug. 22 letter to USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson asked USDA to address a pair of specific issues related to the incident. The first being to help address the considerable shift in cattle slaughter to other plants by USDA shifting additional regulatory staff to those facilities.

“We ask USDA to provide all of the needed grading and inspection staff that will be required to address these needs as quickly as possible,” wrote Nelson in the letter.

In addition to keeping beef processing moving forward, Nebraska Farm Bureau also urged USDA to keep a close eye on cattle markets.

“Given the situation in Kansas and the resulting impacts it has had on cattle prices, we hope USDA and the Packers and Stockyards Division will actively investigate the recent movements in cattle markets. We also hope any anti-competitive activities will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” wrote Nelson.

The Packers and Stockyards Act makes it unlawful for any packer to engage in or use any unfair, unjustly discriminatory, or deceptive practices or devices as they procure livestock.

“While we certainly understand rules and regulations place restrictions on what assistance can be provided, we hope USDA will use all of its authority to ensure operations run smoothly and beef producers are treated fairly,” wrote Nelson. “We thank you and your team for your time and assistance through this difficult situation and for everything you do for Nebraska farm and ranch families.”

Farmers are seeing payments from the first round of the latest trade aid in the mailbox. Farm Service Agency director Richard Fordyce says the first payments are being mailed out now, and farmers are reporting receiving the checks.

Round one of the three potential payments is 50 percent of the overall amount farmers may receive. USDA expects up to $14.5 billion of payments will be sent to farmers, pending on the trade negotiation progress. Another 25 percent of the total would go out later this fall, if the Department of Agriculture deems the payments necessary. The final round, if needed, is planned for some time around January.

The payments are meant to offset the losses stemmed from the Trump trade agenda and trade war with China. Payments range from $15 to $150 per acre, depending on location. Payments are also available for dairy and hog producers, under certain reporting parameters.

This is the second time the Trump administration has used the Market Facilitation Program since the trade war with China began.

Farmer angst spread to Pro Farmer’s Midwest Crop Tour Wednesday. The Department of Agriculture pulled all personnel from the tour after an angry farmer allegedly threatened a USDA employee over the phone.

Pro Farmer says the threat reported on the western leg of the tour was not from a tour scout or farmer that attended a crop tour meeting. The threat was reported to local authorities, and Pro Farmer announced additional security measures for the remainder of the event. Officials did not announce the nature of the threat, or who was threatened. Federal Protective Services are investigating the incident.

Compounding stress in farm country continues to grow as farmers face depressed prices, trade issues and a challenging growing season, along with farmers questioning USDA data. Pro Farmer recognized that “it’s clearly a stressful time right now,” but that stress does not justify making threats to federal employees, or anyone on crop tour.

The tour concludes Thursday night in Rochester, Minnesota, and final estimates will be released Friday.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)  announced that producers of nearly 17,000 dairy operations have signed up for the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program since signup opened June 17. Producers interested in 2019 coverage must sign up before Sept. 20, 2019.

DMC offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.

“We’re encouraged by the number of dairy producers who have signed up for this new program, but we are hopeful that we will get more folks in the door,” said Bill Northey, USDA’s Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.“At this point in the signup process, we are well ahead of the number of producers covered at this time last year under the previous safety net program, with more producers enrolling every day. As we move into the homestretch, we expect more producers across the country to get coverage through DMC and our team at FSA is really going above and beyond to make sure we get the word out there, the returns this year to-date should speak for themselves.”

In June, when the DMC signup was announced, Secretary Perdue said, “For many smaller dairies, the choice is probably a no-brainer as the retroactive coverage through January has already assured them that the 2019 payments will exceed the required premiums.”

To date, more than 60 percent of dairies with established production histories have enrolled in the program. Wisconsin has seen the most participants with more than 4,832 dairy operations, followed by Minnesota (1,865), New York (1,779), Pennsylvania (1,511) and Michigan (702).

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) began issuing program payments to producers on July 11. DMC provides coverage retroactive to Jan. 1, 2019. The producers who have signed up to date will receive more than $219.7 million in payments for January through June, when the income over feed cost margin was $8.63 per hundredweight (cwt.), triggering the sixth payment for eligible dairy producers who purchased the $9 and $9.50 levels of coverage under DMC.

Tyson, one of the country’s largest meatpackers, is petitioning the Trump administration to reduce the number of government inspectors at a Kansas beef plant — a proposal that has raised alarms among some consumer and food safety advocates, who fear the changes could jeopardize public health.

In the request, Tyson Fresh Meats proposes using its own employees, rather than independent Department of Agriculture inspectors, to take a first look at the meat being prepared at its factory in Holcomb, Kansas. Tyson’s employees would identify unsuitable beef carcasses and trim away defects, before USDA inspectors check every carcass that is allowed to go forward for disease and contamination, Tyson said in its March waiver proposal, which was obtained by the advocacy group Food and Water Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request. The shift would allow Tyson to speed up its factory line.

The USDA is considering Tyson’s request — the first of its kind for a beef plant — as part of a broader overhaul of beef inspections that aims to shift quality control from government inspectors to factory workers, while focusing the USDA’s attention on more targeted safety checks.

“We have to utilize our resources in order to do those tasks that have a direct impact on public health,” Carmen Rottenberg, administrator for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said.

Image: Workers sit outside the Tyson Fresh Meats processing plant after a fire damaged the facility in Holcomb, Kansas, on Aug. 12, 2019.
Workers sit outside the Tyson Fresh Meats processing plant after a fire damaged the facility in Holcomb, Kansas, in August 2019.Adam Shrimplin / Reuters

Consumer advocates warn that the changes could threaten food safety by keeping red flags out of the sight of expert inspectors. Dr. Pat Basu, the USDA’s former chief veterinarian, said that Tyson factory workers without adequate training might miss critical signs of disease, drug injections or bacterial contamination — and remove the evidence before USDA inspectors can examine the carcasses.

“They are bypassing safeguards,” Basu, who retired from the USDA in early 2018, said. “It could be devastating for the whole country — you cannot turn it over.”

Tyson’s request comes as the Trump administration is finalizing a similar overhaul for pork plants, which will allow them to reduce the number of USDA inspectors by having factory workers take over more quality control tasks.

James Goodwin, a senior policy analyst for the left-leaning Center for Progressive Reform, believes the USDA’s efforts are the latest example of federal agencies “moving forward further and further towards industry-led oversight.” Industries play a significant role in the routine work performed by many regulatory agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, which has manufacturers test new drugs, then send the results to the government for approval. But Goodwin warns that the hazards of the broader shift are clear, pointing to the Federal Aviation Administration’s practice of delegating critical safety assessments of planes to the airline industry — a policy that’s now under investigation in the case of the fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes.

Tyson declined to answer specific questions, but emphasized that the company was “proactive” in working with USDA officials to alter the inspection process.

“Tyson Foods is committed to ensuring a safe work environment for our team members, food safety for our consumers, and responsible care and treatment for animals in our supply chain,” the company said in a statement.

The company is currently rebuilding the Holcomb plant, which stopped production last week after being damaged in a fire.

A decision made behind closed doors

The USDA has been testing these changes in pork and poultry plants since the late 1990s, through pilot programs based on extensive public input.

But the administration isn’t planning to create a formal pilot program to overhaul beef inspections, which in the past has created opportunities for public comment. Instead, USDA officials said they would rely on individual company requests like Tyson’s to inform the agency’s next steps, praising the industry’s role in driving innovation.

“If you have an interest in waiving the regulation to test a new technology or approach, then we’re happy to consider that,” Rottenberg said.

Food safety advocates have slammed the USDA for making such decisions behind closed doors, without public input. The agency has privately met with beef industry representatives at least six times since May 2018, according to public calendar records. Tyson, which attended two of those meetings, spent more on lobbying and campaign contributions than almost any other meatpacking company in 2018, according to data from OpenSecrets.org.

A Wisconsin lawmaker is demanding changes to Department of Agriculture trade aid distributions. Democrat Ron Kind, a U.S. Representative from Wisconsin, says the current Market Facilitation Program favors large farmers.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Kind says a study shows the top one percent of large farms received an average of $183,000 in trade aid, while the bottom eighty percent received under $5,000, on average. Additionally, 82 large farms received more than $500,000 and 95 percent of all payments went to the top 50 percent of farms.

The report also found that over $38 million in payments were sent to those living in large U.S. cities. In the letter, Representative Kind asked Secretary Perdue to outline what changes USDA would be making to ensure the second trade aid package is “effectively spending taxpayer dollars” and ensure the payments will be provided “solely to farmers facing the current difficult trade environment to export their products abroad.” USDA expects to send the next of payments soon.