Agriculture Committee Chairs and Ranking Members Rep. Frank Lucas, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Rep. Colin Peterson and Sen. Thad Cochran were unable to reach agreement on the 2013 Farm Bill before the Thanksgiving break on the major issues dividing them. This includes the commodity title standoff regarding support on current year plantings versus base acres and nutrition cuts. Both the House and Senate are scheduled to be in session for two weeks in December, but only overlap the week of Dec. 9, so there is little time left to finish a farm bill this year. The one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill expired Sept. 30.
On Nov. 14, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated (PH) oils - the primary source of trans fat - are no longer "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS). Trans fat is damaging because it increases "bad" LDL cholesterol and lowers "good" HDL cholesterol. If the FDA's preliminary determination is finalized, PH oils will be classified as food additives that cannot be legally sold without FDA approval, a decision expected to eliminate most artificial trans fat from the U.S. food supply. While the consumption of trans fat has declined through the use of alternatives such as canola oil and high-stability canola oil, the further reduction could help prevent up to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths each year, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In response to the FDA’s announcement about PH oils, the U.S. Canola Association (USCA) issued a news release explaining that high-stability canola oil offers higher heat tolerance and shelf stability than most vegetable oils, enough to replace PH oils in many applications. “The use of canola oil has more than doubled in the last five years and high-stability canola oil makes up well over half of all the canola oil used by the U.S. food industry,” says Ryan Pederson, president of the USCA and a canola grower in Rolette, N.D. “High-stability canola oil offers a trans fat solution without increasing – and in most cases, decreasing – saturated fat.” The release also mentions the American Heart Association’s recent recommendation to reduce daily saturated fat consumption to 5 to 6 percent, a significant decrease from the 10 percent cited in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. To read the full release, visit the USCA website.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is accepting applications for its Fellowships Grant Program. The fellowships seek to develop “technical and academic competence of doctoral candidates and the research independence and teaching competencies of postdoctoral students in the food, forestry and agricultural sciences.” Study areas include plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities.