J. Mark Huffman

WTO Agreement Would Phase Out Subsidies

The latest round of WTO negotiations may result in Congressional action to eliminate many long-standing agricultural export subsidies, which would be phased out under the framework for negotiations in the Doha Round of trade talks. The framework commits to establishing a more market-oriented international trading system.

In addition to the elimination of export subsidies, the WTO framework includes provisions to increase market access and reduce domestic subsidies. If the framework language remains intact during the Doha negotiations, several U.S. dairy policies might have to be changed or ended, including the federal Dairy Price Support Program, the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) payments and the Dairy Export Incentive Program (DEIP). However, the framework does not contain any deadline for the abolition of export subsidies.

Dairy industry representatives in Washington are in general agreement that the framework is good for the industry. Clay Hough, SVP and gen. counsel with the International Dairy Foods Assn., called it "a major achievement" that will benefit U.S. dairy exporters. At the same time, Jerry Kozak, CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, called it a "positive development" that protects U.S. dairy interests.

FDA has set its goals for the remainder of 2004, with updating food Good Manufacturing Practices, enhancing food safety, and acting on several anti-obesity measures at the top of the list.

Acting FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford said he hopes his agency can release proposed new GMPs by the end of the year. It's still gathering input with a series of public meetings.

Anti-obesity efforts, meanwhile, could result in changes in the way food manufacturers label content. Crawford said FDA plans to publish a proposed rule by this fall for food manufacturers to establish regulations for nutrient content claims related to a food's carbohydrate content. These new regulations will define the use of "low carbohydrate," "reduced carbohydrate," and "carbohydrate-free," which are all currently prohibited.

He said FDA "intends to move forward" on the recommendation to highlight the caloric amount and serving size on the food label. This could mean larger lettering sizes and adding a daily value percentage for calories.