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Advocacy at a Glance

July 18, 2020

Top-Line: The House is likely to vote on FY 21 Ag/FDA appropriations next week. Committee action in the Senate on FY 21 appropriations is stalled by a number of factors and is unlikely to come up before September at the earliest. FDA has resumed domestic inspections and launched its New Era of Smart Food Safety initiative. A hearing is slated on FDA’s Hiring and Retention Policies. This week’s Analysis and Commentary explains Senate (in)action and the most likely scenarios for FY 21 funding.

House to Consider FY 21 Minibus that Contains Ag/FDA Funding, Scheduled for Next Week. The House Appropriations Committee has passed all 12 appropriations bills and has started packaging them for the floor. The first one up is likely to be H.R. 7608, a four-bill minibus that includes State-Foreign Operations; Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA; Interior-Environment; and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. House Majority Leader Hoyer has announced that the bill is expected to come up next week. The committee-adopted FY 21 funding level for FDA (+$41 million) is unchanged from the subcommittee mark.

Senate Stalled, Unlikely to Consider Appropriations Before September at the Earliest. No FY 21 funding bills have been released or considered in the Senate. A number of disagreements — substantive, procedural, and political — have kept Chairman Shelby and Ranking Member Leahy from releasing bills and scheduling mark-ups. We have seen stories that quoted Ag/FDA Subcommittee Chair Hoeven that their bill is ready to be released, but he is awaiting leadership decisions before proceeding. A more complete discussion of Senate disagreements and the most probable outcomes are in this week’s Analysis and Commentary.

Next COVID-19 Supplemental Funding Bill to be Congressional Focus Between Now and Senate Recess. It is hard to imagine Congress leaving for the August recess without passing another Emergency Supplemental bill to address COVID-19 and provide economic support for organizations, businesses, individuals, and state and local governments. Additional funding for FDA and other public health agencies is possible in this legislation and would reflect whatever OMB and the agencies tell Congress they need. However, this would be a very minor part of the discussion and not a likely source of disagreement.

FDA Resumes Domestic Inspections with Necessary Conditions and Caveats. Starting the week of July 20, FDA will resume prioritized domestic inspections, an upgrade from last few months when it was performing only mission critical inspections. For the time being, inspections will be pre-announced and only occur when it can be done safely by FDA investigators and the firm’s employees. Some of the difficulties of even this partial re-launch are described in this news article.

FDA Releases New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint. On July 13, FDA released the final version of its “New Era of Smarter Food Safety: FDA’s Blueprint for the Future” (here). The blueprint provides achievable steps toward a more digital, traceable, and safer food system.

Public Hearing Slated on FDA Hiring and Retention Assessment. FDA has scheduled a virtual hearing on July 30 to review and receive comments on the report “FDA Hiring and Retention Interim Assessment.” Details on the hearing and links to the report and other relevant documents are here.

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