By Emily Lyons, IDFA
Presidential elections always mean change in the nation’s capital. During presidential election years, there is a mad rush by administrative agencies to finish regulations for programs championed by their president.
For example, over the last year, the Obama administration put finishing touches on several of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations, began implementation of the current good manufacturing practices and preventive controls provisions of FSMA, and made changes to the Nutrition Facts labeling requirements.
Now that the election is over, the federal agencies are hyper-focused on preserving President Barack Obama’s legacy by finalizing a number of “midnight regulations.”
The Obama adminstration seeks to preserve its legacy
The Obama administration will finalize regulations and guidance documents on a variety of topics. Of the 164 regulations currently at the Office of Management and Budget in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (a White House agency that is a stop for all regulations), 91 are final regulations going through review prior to publication.
From the Food and Drug Administration, several FSMA guidance documents will likely be published in the coming weeks, including the final chapters of the Preventive Control guidance and a small business compliance guide for the Intentional Adulteration rule. FDA also will likely be pushing out guidance to assist companies in complying with changes to the Nutrition Facts labeling requirements and how to make nutrient content and health claims on products.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will soon publish final changes to the livestock production regulations that are part of the National Organic Program. These changes would provide guidance to organic producers, including organic dairy farmers, on animal welfare requirements needed for their product to be considered certified organic.
Environmental and worker safety issues to deal with
On the environmental and worker safety front, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to finalize changes to the Risk Management Plan regulations. These will include sweeping changes to how food facilities manage their refrigeration systems that use anhydrous ammonia.
Additionally, EPA will finalize the Renewable Fuel Standard volume targets for 2017 as well as several Toxic Substances Control Act regulations under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. Meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will soon be publishing a rule clarifying an employer’s obligation to make and maintain injury and illness records.
Bioengineered food rules and 'natural' foods
As the current government prepares to exit, several agencies are teeing up items in an attempt to ensure that the next administration will continue working on certain regulations or guidance documents. One of importance to the dairy industry is the USDA’s work on the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. The current administration is fervently working on an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that will help define the issues the Department plans to address in the regulation.
Meanwhile, FDA has been reviewing comments responsive to a request for information about the use of the term “natural” on food labeling and will determine if the agency will propose a regulation to define the term. FDA has also begun the process to redefine the term “healthy” and will be accepting comments into the next administration.
Additionally, OSHA is working on making updates to its Process Safety Management regulations, which is a companion regulation to EPA’s Risk Management Plan requirements. It is currently unclear when OSHA will finish a proposed version of the rule, but this work will continue unless the next administration decides to abandon it.
Then there is immigration reform
While President-elect Donald Trump did not focus on food policy and regulation during his campaign, there are a few issues we expect him to address during his presidency that could have an impact on the dairy industry.
A centerpiece of President-elect Trump’s platform was immigration reform. While changes to immigration may not have a direct impact on the dairy processing sector, it will have a profound effect on the supply chain as many dairy farmers rely upon migrant labor.
Trump did not completely ignore food regulations during the election season. One policy paper, which referred to FDA as the Food Police, was posted then removed from the campaign website. It outlined several regulations that should be withdrawn or revised. However, it’s unlikely that the Trump administration would roll back any of the FSMA regulations.
Other regulations that were mentioned during the campaign as needing reform were several environmental regulations including the Clean Power Plan, Waters of the United States, and the ozone standard.
While it is unclear exactly what regulations will be revised and possibly eliminated, Trump has vowed to inject more transparency and accountability into the regulatory process, including mandating a rational cost-benefit analysis be complied for all regulations to ensure they are justified.
It is always difficult to make predictions as to what impact a new president will have on the dairy industry, but engagement will be essential in the coming months as the Trump administration defines its legacy to come.
Emily Lyons is the director for regulatory affairs and counsel at the International Dairy Foods Association, Washington, D.C.