The USDA published its most recent regulatory plan Jan. 20.  Here are some highlights of what the agency said about produce-related issues.

On nutrition:

Nutrition Assistance. As changes are made to the nutrition assistance programs, USDA will work to foster actions that ensure access to program benefits, improve program integrity, improve diets and healthy eating through nutrition education, and promote physical activity consistent with the national effort to reduce obesity. In support of these activities in 2012, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) plans to publish the final rule regarding the nutrition standards in the school meals programs; finalize a rule updating the WIC food packages; and establish permanent rules for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. FNS will continue to work to implement rules that minimize participant and vendor fraud in its nutrition assistance programs.

More USDA comments on the final rule to update school nutrition standards, which are scheduled to be released on Wednesday, Jan. 25. From the agency:

While there are no increased Federal costs associated with implementation of this final rule, the Act provides schools that comply with the new meal requirements with an increased Federal reimbursement. The Act also provides Federal funding for training, technical assistance,  certification, and oversight activities related to compliance with this rule.

It is expected that the total costs of compliance with the final rule will exceed $100 million per year. Expected Benefits of the Proposed Action: The final rule is projected to make substantial improvements to the meals served daily in over 101,000 schools nationwide to more than 31 million children. It will align school meals with national nutrition guidelines and help safeguard the health of school children.

On marketing and regulatory programs, from the agency:

USDA will work to support the organic sector and continue regulatory work to protect the health and value of U.S. agricultural and natural resources. USDA will also implement regulations to enhance enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act. In addition, USDA plans to finalize acceptable animal disease traceability standards. Regarding plant health, USDA anticipates revising the permitting of movement of plant pests and biological control organisms. For the Animal Welfare Act, USDA will propose specific standards for the humane care of birds and finalize specific standards for the humane care of dogs imported for resale.


TK: Hmm... no reference to the National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.... 

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