Tag Archives: USDA

In response to erroneous reports in the news and (mostly) on social media, the National Pork Producers Council is reminding pork producers and consumers that federal meat inspectors are working in meat packing plants despite the government shutdown.

NPPC – and other livestock groups – a year ago urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to deem as essential USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors. Without inspections, pointed out NPPC in a Jan. 19, 2018, letter to the secretary, “meat and poultry processing plants are prohibited by law from operating.”

“NPPC and U.S. livestock and poultry farmers are very grateful for the dedication and professionalism shown by FSIS inspectors during what we know are difficult times with this government shutdown,” said NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Ohio. “These inspectors are performing a job that ensures for American consumers the safety of our food supply.”

Had inspectors not been deemed essential – and been furloughed – U.S. packing plants and the 500,000 workers they employee would have been idled, causing significant disruptions throughout the meat supply chain, from livestock producers unable to market their animals to grocery stores unable to stock the meat case.

Also continuing to operate during the shutdown are USDA Market News Service staff who produce the twice-daily livestock mandatory price reports, which are the sole source of market information on sales to packers of cattle, hogs and lambs and on the subsequent sale of meat products. As he did for FSIS inspectors, Perdue made Market News Service employees essential.

“The mandatory price report is a critical tool used by livestock producers, packers and others when making marketing decisions,” Heimerl said. “It plays a central role in ensuring competition in the meat industry and in keeping the livestock industry vibrant.”

Perdue Foods, LLC, a Perry, Ga. establishment, is recalling approximately 68,244 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken nugget products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically wood, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The ready-to-eat chicken nugget items were produced on Oct. 25, 2018. The following product is subject to recall: [View Labels(PDF only)]

  • 22-oz. plastic bag packages of frozen “PERDUE SimplySmart ORGANICS BREADED CHICKEN BREAST NUGGETS GLUTEN FREE” with “Best By: Date 10/25/19” and UPC Bar Code “72745-80656” represented on the label.

The product subject to recall bears establishment number “P-33944” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to retail locations nationwide.

The problem was discovered when the firm received three consumer complaints that wood was found in the product. A complaint was also reported to FSIS’ consumer complaint monitoring system. FSIS was notified by the firm on Jan. 17, 2019.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider.

FSIS is concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

Consumers with questions about the recall can contact Perdue Consumer Care at (877) 727-3447. Members of the media with questions about the recall can contact Andrea Staub, Sr. Vice President, Perdue Foods, LLC, at (410) 341-2755.

Consumers with food safety questions can “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov or via smartphone at m.askkaren.gov. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day. The online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/reportproblem.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that many Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices will reopen temporarily in the coming days to perform certain limited services for farmers and ranchers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recalled about 2,500 FSA employees to open offices on Thursday, January 17 and Friday, January 18, in addition to Tuesday, January 22, during normal business hours. The offices will be closed for the federal Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday, January 21.

In almost half of FSA locations, FSA staff will be available to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans and to ensure the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline.

“Until Congress sends President Trump an appropriations bill in the form that he will sign, we are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America’s agricultural producers,” Perdue said.  “We are bringing back part of our FSA team to help producers with existing farm loans.  Meanwhile, we continue to examine our legal authorities to ensure we are providing services to our customers to the greatest extent possible during the shutdown.”

Staff members will be available at certain FSA offices to help producers with specific services, including:

  • Processing payments made on or before December 31, 2018.
  • Continuing expiring financing statements.
  • Opening mail to identify priority items.


Additionally, as an intermittent incidental duty, staff may release proceeds from the sale of loan security by signing checks jointly payable to FSA that are brought to the county office by producers.

Information on the locations of FSA offices to be open during this three-day window will be posted:

While staff are available in person during this three-day window, most available services can be handled over the phone. Producers can begin contacting staff on January 17 here.

Additionally, farmers who have loan deadlines during the lapse in funding do not need to make payments until the government shutdown ends.

Other FSA Programs and Services

Reopened FSA offices will only be able to provide the specifically identified services while open during this limited time. Services that will not be available include, but are not limited to:

  • New direct or facility loans.
  • New Farm loan guarantees.
  • New marketing assistance loans.
  • New applications for Market Facilitation Program (MFP).
  • Certification of 2018 production for MFP payments.
  • Dairy Margin Protection Program.
  • Disaster assistance programs, such as:
    • Livestock Indemnity Program.
    • Emergency Conservation Program.
    • Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program.
    • Livestock Forage Disaster Program.
    • Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish.

While January 15, 2019 had been the original deadline for producers to apply for MFP, farmers have been unable to apply since December 28, 2018, when FSA offices closed because of the lapse in federal funding.  Secretary Perdue has extended the MFP application deadline for a period of time equal to the number of business days FSA offices end up being closed, once the government shutdown ends. These announced days of limited staff availability during the shutdown will not constitute days open in calculating the extension. Producers who already applied for MFP and certified their 2018 production by December 28, 2018 should have already received their payments.

More information on MFP is available at www.farmers.gov/manage/mfp.

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says his agency is working with the Office of Management and Budget to find ways to reduce the impact of the government shutdown on farmers and ranchers.

Farm Service Agency offices across the country are closed and it’s causing several challenges for producers. “We’re working with OMB to see if we can find some relief in that area,” Perdue says on Fox Business. “We’re hoping to work up some strategies very soon to get these offices back open soon.” In the meantime, the Food and Drug Administration is planning to expand its daily food safety work amid the continuing lapse in funding. High-risk food safety inspections could start up again as soon as Tuesday.

Also, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service remains on the job. Perdue also tells Fox Business that the agency’s food safety work hasn’t been disrupted at all. “We’re not short cutting any type of food safety issues there at USDA in our meat processing,” he says. States are also hustling to get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program February benefits out to recipients starting this week, which Politico says is a big logistical and communications undertaking.

New leaders convene in Congress today with the need to find an end to the government shutdown. The Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies are reaching a “breaking point,” according to Politico, as many agencies are running out of carryover funding.

Democrats who now control the House of Representatives were expected to vote on a spending package upon taking office today, but the Senate isn’t expected to accept the plan. USDA has closed Farm Service Agency offices across the nation due to the shutdown. Producers who have certified 2018 production are expected to receive Market Facilitation Program payments, the aid package designed to offset trade losses to farmers stemming from the Trump administration’s trade agenda.

However, producers who have yet to certify 2018 acres will have to wait until the shutdown concludes. USDA has continued some services, included meat and commodity inspections, along with Forest Service law enforcement, some research measurements and the continuation of SNAP benefits.

USDA is moving forward on the second and final round of trade mitigation payments to farmers hurt from retaliation by America’s trading partners. Commodity producers are now eligible to receive Market Facilitation Payments on the second half of their 2018 production. USDA has been sending out the first round of MFP payments to producers since September on the first 50 percent of their 2018 production.

The MFP payments are designed for almond, cotton, corn, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, fresh sweet cherry, and wheat producers. Producers are only required to register one time for both the first and second round of payments. The MFP signup period runs through January 15, 2019, but producers actually have until May 1 to certify their 2018 production numbers.

Farmers who haven’t done so can find signup information and instructions at www.farmers.gov/mfp. Eligible producers must wait until harvest is completely finished as payments are made based on 2018 total production. Farmers that have already applied, completed harvest, and certified their production, will receive a second payment on 50 percent of their production, multiplied by the MFP rate for each commodity.

Washington, D.C., Dec. 21, 2018 – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today applauded the accomplishments made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over the past year. USDA has continued enacting President Trump’s goals of regulatory reform, streamlining government, and refocusing USDA to be customer oriented.

“In 2018 we have fought for American farmers, ranchers, and producers by delivering new and improved trade deals like USMCA and a re-negotiated KORUS agreement, provided trade assistance to farmers due to illegal trade retaliation, and helped our fellow citizens through devastating natural disasters,” Perdue said. “I am proud to say that every day at USDA we do our best to live by our motto to “Do Right and Feed Everyone.”

SNAP Reform

USDA made major strides in reigning in dependence on government assistance by beginning the rule making process to move more able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to self-sufficiency. With today’s strong economy and more jobs available than there are workers, USDA’s proposal helps ensure the 3.8 million individual ABAWDs receiving SNAP benefits get back to work and on the path to self-sufficiency.

Hurricane Response

USDA has significant roles to play in helping agricultural producers recover from hurricane-related damage and improve agricultural resilience to disasters. USDA provided a broad range of assistance to residents, agricultural producers and impacted communities at large following Hurricanes Florence and Michael in 2018. This assistance has included providing children affected by Hurricane Florence access to free meals, help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients replace food lost due to power outages and provide disaster food assistance to low-income families affected by storms who would not normally be eligible for the regular program but because of disaster related expenses have need for assistance, assistance to producers suffering damage to working lands and cattle mortality, helped businesses and utilities by considering requests to defer principal and/or interest payments, and provided emergency farm loans to impacted operations. In addition to offering similar assistance following Hurricane Michael, USDA also held workshops in the area where the hurricane made landfall to help connect producers with USDA programs that can help them rebuild their operations. Finally, USDA provided subject matter expertise to the FEMA Emergency Support Functions responding to these and other disasters as part of the whole-of-government effort.


In the past year, the USDA Forest Service treated more than 3.5 million acres to reduce hazardous fuels and improve forest health through timber sales and prescribed fire. The USFS treated an additional 2.5 million acres to improve watershed conditions, ecosystems, infrastructure, and provide clean water for millions of Americans. Additionally, the USFS fought multiple major wildfires in 2018 conjointly with local authorities.

Customer Service

USDA successfully merged the Agricultural Marketing Service, Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, and the Farm Service Agency’s Commodity Operations programs to better meet the needs of farmers, ranchers, producers, and consumers while improving customer service and maximizing efficiencies.

USDA stood up a new Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) mission area, which encompass the USDA’s domestic-facing agencies: FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Risk Management Agency. The Department also launched the FPAC Business Center in 2018, which will eliminate redundant administrative support functions, including human resources, information technology, finance, procurement, and property management. USDA strives to be the most customer focused and customer-oriented department in the Federal government.

USDA also made other efforts to improve customer service across the agencies:

  • Created “Tell Sonny” Online Feedback Tool: Through collaboration with the Centers of Excellence, USDA built an online feedback tool, called “Tell Sonny,” which captures citizen feedback on how USDA is doing.
  • Optimized Infrastructure: USDA achieved $21.5 million in cost savings/avoidance by optimizing its Enterprise Data Centers, and by consolidating and closing a total of 23 data centers as part of the Data Center Optimization Initiative.
  • Strengthened Cybersecurity: USDA decreased the number of critical vulnerabilities per endpoint by 62 percent and the number of high vulnerabilities by 73 percent, decreasing USDA’s weaknesses in software or hardware that can be exploited by a hacker.
  • Reduced Fleet Size: After reviewing the motor fleet, USDA reduced its fleet size by over 4200 vehicles, which will potentially avoid an estimated $26 million in costs in fiscal year 2019.


Through the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the United States made major strides towards strengthening its highly productive and integrated trade relationship with its North American neighbors, ensuring preferential access for U.S. agricultural exports and solidifying commitments to fair and science-based trade rules.

USDA efforts to break down barriers and pursue export opportunities resulted in new or expanded market access for numerous U.S. farm products in 2018. These included dairy and poultry to Canada under the USMCA, as well as lamb and goat meat to Japan, beef and pork to Argentina, poultry to India and Namibia, lamb to El Salvador, beef and poultry to Morocco, eggs to South Africa and dairy to Turkey.

Foreign Agricultural Service staff around the globe assisted U.S. exporters in releasing hundreds of shipments that were detained at foreign ports. This ensured that more than $77 million of perishable U.S. products arrived safely at their final destinations. Among them were beef to Bulgaria, cherries to Taiwan, cranberries to China, lobsters to the United Arab Emirates and squid to Peru.

Trade Assistance to Farmers

In 2018, USDA provided a range of assistance to farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation by foreign nations. To help ensure this assistance reaches those affected, FSA is facilitating the Market Facilitation Program to provide payments to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, and wheat producers; AMS is managing a Food Purchase and Distribution Program to purchase up to $1.2 billion in commodities that will be distributed through nutrition assistance programs and child nutrition programs; and FAS is making available $200 million to develop foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products.

Farm Bill

USDA provided over 2,000 items of technical assistance to members of Congress during the 2018 Farm Bill legislative process. In order to serve America’s farmers, producers, and ranchers to the best of our ability, USDA worked hand in hand with legislators to give technical assistance for dozens of programs affected by this year’s Farm Bill.

Eradication of Pink Bollworm and Other Invasive Species

In October, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced that U.S. cotton is free — after more than 100 years — of the devastating pink bollworm. This pest cost U.S. producers tens of millions of dollars in yearly control costs and yield losses. Thanks to rigorous control and regulatory activities carried out by USDA, state departments of agriculture, the U.S. cotton industry, and growers, pink bollworm was eliminated from all cotton-producing areas in the continental United States. As a result, USDA lifted the domestic quarantine for pink bollworm, relieving restrictions on the domestic and international movement of U.S. cotton. APHIS and its partners also successfully eliminated feral swine from Maryland and New Jersey, and three additional States (Iowa, Maine, and Oregon) saw significant reductions in feral swine populations. Additionally, in FY18, APHIS declared two Ohio communities free of Asian longhorned beetle, in Monroe Township after a seven-year eradication effort and in Stonelick Township after a six-year effort.

National School Lunch Program

To make school meals more appealing to children, reduce food waste, and ease operational burdens, USDA published a final rule allowing for more flexibilities in the food served through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. This action is part of USDA’s Regulatory Reform Agenda, developed in response to President Trump’s Executive Order to eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens.


Secretary Perdue launched a USDA initiative to provide comprehensive and timely support to veterans interested in opportunities in agriculture, agribusiness, and in rural America. USDA wants to ensure veterans looking to return home, or start a new career on a farm or in a rural community have the tools and opportunities they need to succeed. The resources include a veterans website and a USDA-wide AgLearn curriculum to allow all employees to understand the unique opportunities offered to our nation’s veterans.

USDA Agency Accomplishments

USDA is made up of 29 agencies and offices with nearly 100,000 employees who serve the American people at more than 4,500 locations across the country. While each mission area’s accomplishments may be found by using the links below, notable accomplishments are as follows:

  • Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) collaborated across USDA agencies to develop and implement a program to purchase targeted commodities to assist farmers and ranchers affected by unfair trade tariffs.
  • Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists at the Cotton Chemistry and Utilization Research Unit in New Orleans, Louisiana, developed TACgauze™ – a domestically-produced, nonwoven, cotton gauze made of greige (raw, unbleached) cotton. In comparison to standard crinkle-type gauzes made of processed cotton, TACgauze was found to be 33 percent lighter and 63 percent more absorbent in trials. It also promoted clotting more quickly. Commercialized in November, military services organizations are evaluating TACgauze for use by our warfighters on the battlefield and civilian organizations are exploring its widespread use in treating wounds.
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) played a vital role to ensure the free flow of agricultural trade by keeping U.S. agricultural industries free from pests and diseases. An example of this critical work is APHIS’ recent efforts to prevent African Swine Fever from entering the United States through a series of interlocking safeguards that includes working with producers, states and industry to ensure they are following biosecurity recommendations, restricting pork and pork imports from affected countries, and working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to train inspection dogs and increase screening vigilance for passengers and products arriving from affected countries.
  • Economic Research Service (ERS) conducted a study on how agricultural production has shifted to much larger farming operations over the last three decades, even as the number of very small farms grows. Based on detailed farm-level data, Three Decades of Consolidation in U.S. Agriculture measured trends in consolidation and tracked developments in farm-level specialization as well as the organization of farming businesses.
  • Farm Service Agency (FSA) added seed cotton as a covered commodity under the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programsfor the 2018 crop year, which provides cotton producers access to USDA risk management tools that provide other covered commodities much-needed protection from low markets.
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspected more than 160 million head of livestock and 9.47 billion poultry carcasses. FSIS Inspectors also conducted 6.9 million food safety and food defense procedures across 6,500 regulated establishments to ensure meat, poultry and processed egg products were safe and wholesome.
  • Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provided almost 13 million pounds of USDA Foods, valued at $18.6 million, and $5.6 million worth of infant formula and baby food, to ensure those whose lives were disrupted by disaster have the food they need as they got back on their feet.
  • Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) facilitated $2 billion in exports of U.S. agricultural commodities to Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, and Asia through the GSM-102 Export Credit Guarantee Program. FAS rolled out the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program, which helps to mitigate the effects of other countries’ trade barriers by helping U.S. agricultural exporters develop new markets. A total of 71 organizations have applied for the program, submitting requests totaling more than $600 million, for funding that will be allocated in early 2019.
  • Forest Service (USFS) made improvements in environmental analysis and decision-making to cut costs by $30 million, and reduced analysis time by 10 percent. The USFS worked with sister agencies to update policies and processes for more efficient application and implementation of mineral extraction and energy production projects. The agency also reformed wildland fire systems to prioritize risk-based resource allocation and lower costs while protecting lives, property, and resources.
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) launched a new, improved online survey questionnaire for the 2017 Census of Agriculture. The new system is now in use for nearly 50 percent of NASS surveys with the remainder coming online as they are conducted. The user-friendly questionnaire is accessible on any device, calculates totals automatically, and skips questions that do not apply. In addition to being more convenient for respondents, it streamlines data collection and analysis for USDA.
  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) delivered grants to the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development and Purdue Extension to host a quarterly webinar series, Combating Opioids, to make a difference in addressing opioid misuse and abuse, especially in rural communities. There have been over 575 participants from across the country on 5 webinars and over 1,000 views to archived presentations and materials housed on the project’s website
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provided technical assistance to more than 900,000 land managers, and comprehensive planning assistance to over 100,000 producers in 2018. This work resulted in conservation plans for nearly 28 million acres. NRCS actions in 2018 also resulted in 33.3 million acres being treated with conservation practices to improve water quality, with estimated reductions of nutrient loss of 47,732 tons of nitrogen and 7,821 tons of phosphorus on cropland.
  • Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) (PDF, 130 KB) in October, USDA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed a joint agency formal agreement (PDF, 578 KB) launching the Winning on Reducing Food Waste initiative. This new agreement will improve coordination across federal agencies to better educate Americans on the impacts and importance of reducing food loss and waste.
  • Risk Management Agency (RMA) provided more than $61 million in coverage following Hurricanes Florence and Michael. RMA paid more than $1.99 billion in claims for causes of loss related to drought for the 2018 reinsurance year. Claims for 2018 coverage totaled more than $3.29 billion.
  • Rural Development (RD) invested in new and improved high-speed e-Connectivity for more than 45,000 rural homes and businesses, modernized rural electric infrastructure for more than 7 million customers, invested in new and improved water and wastewater infrastructure for nearly 3 million rural customers, and invested in new and improved community infrastructure including streets, transportation, aviation, ports, and water and storm water resources for 1.2 million rural Americans.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today detailed which functions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will remain available in the event of a lapse in government funding. “There may be a lapse in funding for the federal government, but that will not relieve USDA of its responsibilities for safeguarding life and property through the critical services we provide,” said Secretary Perdue.  “Our employees work hard every day to benefit our customers and the farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers who depend on our programs. During a shutdown, we will leverage our existing resources as best we can to continue to provide the top-notch service people expect.”

Some of the programs that will continue:

Meat, poultry, and processed egg inspection services.
Grain and other commodity inspection, weighing, grading, and IT support services funded by user fees.
Inspections for import and export activities to prevent the introduction and dissemination of pests into and out of the U.S, including inspections from Hawaii and Puerto Rico to the mainland.
Care for animals, plants and associated infrastructure to preserve agricultural research and to comply with the Wild Horses and Burros statute.
Eligible households will still receive monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for January.
Most other domestic nutrition assistance programs, such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, WIC, and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, can continue to operate at the State and local level with any funding and commodity resources that remain available.
The Child Nutrition (CN) Programs, including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Feeding, Summer Food Service and Special Milk will continue operations into February. Meal providers are paid on a reimbursement basis 30 days after the end of the service month. Carryover funding will be available during a lapse to support FY 2019 meal service.
Provision of conservation technical and financial assistance (such as Conservation Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and easement programs).Some farm payments (including direct payments, market assistance loans, market facilitation payments, and disaster assistance programs) will be continued for the first week of a shutdown.
Market Facilitation Program payments.
Trade mitigation purchases made by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
Agricultural export credit and other agricultural trade development and monitoring activities.

USDA’s Market News Service, which provides critically important market information to the agricultural industry.

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says USDA has established the National Bioengineered Food Standard. The standard will require food manufacturers, importers, and certain retailers to make sure bioengineered foods are properly disclosed to consumers.

Perdue says the new standard will increase the transparency of our nation’s food system by establishing guidelines on how to disclose bioengineered ingredients. “This ensures clear information and labeling consistency for consumers about the ingredients in their food,” Perdue says. “The standard also avoids a patchwork of state-by-state systems that could be confusing to consumers.”

The Standard will define bioengineered foods as those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through lab techniques and can’t be created through conventional breeding or found in nature. The implementation date is January first of 2020. Smaller food manufacturers will have an implementation date of January first, 2021. There are several disclosure options, including written text, symbols, electronic or digital link, and/or text message.

Options like phone numbers or websites will be available to smaller food manufacturers. A congressional law passed in June of 2016 required USDA to come up with a standard to disclose which foods that are or may be bioengineered.

USDA on Thursday will propose a rule to tighten job requirements and state rules around people on food aid who are classified as “able-bodied adults without dependents.”

USDA is attempting to implement, by rulemaking, a plan that got hung up in Congress, created a partisan divide in the House, was rejected in the Senate and eventually by the full Congress in adopting the 2018 farm bill.

The move comes as comes as President Donald Trump is scheduled to sign the 2018 farm bill into law Thursday afternoon. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue indicated in a press call Wednesday that USDA’s moves would save $15 billion over 10 years “and give President Trump comfort enough to support a farm bill he might otherwise have opposed.”

President Trump has repeatedly pushed for tighter SNAP work requirements through tweets and comments on the farm bill in the past several months. Those provisions failed to make it into the final farm bill, which passed both chambers of Congress last week with broad bipartisan support.

Perdue told reporters Trump will sign the farm bill that reinforces the farm safety net, but Congress “missed an opportunity” to tighten the rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, so USDA will move ahead and do so itself. Perdue said the welfare reform mantra of the 1990s that federal handouts “are a second chance, not a way of life” has gotten worn down by “out of control” state flexibility standards under SNAP.

With unemployment at 3.7% unemployment nationally — the lowest since 1969 — Perdue said it’s reasonable to expect able-bodied people to look for work. Perdue and other USDA officials said the move will provide able-bodied adults without dependents more opportunities through work.

“Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch,” Perdue said. “That is the commitment behind SNAP. But like other federal welfare programs, it was never intended to be a way of life.”

Under the proposal, USDA would reduce the ability of states to broaden regions in their state subject to SNAP waivers for able-bodied adults without dependents who are chronically on SNAP aid. Like everything in the federal language, able-bodied adults without dependents has the acronym “ABAWDs.”

USDA states there are 3.8 million ABAWDs on food aid, of which 2.8 million, or about 74%, are not working or undergoing some form of job-training program.

A USDA spokesman responded to DTN that USDA estimates that the proposal reduces spending on SNAP benefits by $15 billion over the years FY 2020-2029 because changes in the waiver standards will increase the number of ABAWDs subject to time limits (because they have not met work or training requirements). When the rule is published, the Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) will reflect a five-year cost estimate (FY 2020-2024), with a savings of $7.9 billion. Both numbers reflect the same regulatory changes but over different time frames.

Reflecting the congressional division on the issue were opposing statements from leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture Committee. Outgoing House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas.

“This is an issue we took head-on in the House-passed farm bill, creating a roadmap for states to more effectively engage ABAWDs in this booming economy,” Conaway said. “Paired with the farm bill’s modernized E&T (education and training) programming and increased investment, this proposed rule will allow ABAWDs to seek new opportunities and achieve their goals. I applaud the proposed rule and proudly stand with the Trump administration in demonstrating the importance of state accountability and recipient success.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, assailed the plan and accused Perdue and USDA of going way beyond congressional intent.

“This regulation blatantly ignores the bipartisan farm bill that the President is signing today and disregards over 20 years of history, giving states flexibility to request waivers based on local job conditions. I expect the rule will face significant opposition and legal challenges,” Stabenow said. “Administrative changes should not be driven by ideology. I do not support unilateral and unjustified changes that would take food away from families.”

The farm bill conference report, Stabenow’s office said, “explicitly states that waivers are necessary in areas with higher unemployment, and Congress intends to continue to give state SNAP agencies the responsibility for determining when and how waivers are submitted. Earlier this year, during the consideration of the Senate farm bill, 68 senators from both parties opposed an amendment that would have increased barriers for families on nutrition assistance and taken away states’ rights to issue waivers.”

Under the proposed rule, able-bodied adults without dependents would be able to receive SNAP benefits for three months in any three-year period, unless they work or take 20 hours of job training, language comparable to a provision removed from the final version of the farm bill.

USDA would also tighten state waivers for areas with higher unemployment and prevent states from “banking” potential waiver recipient figures for future years. Adding a little more politics to the rule, Perdue said governors also must personally sign waiver requests, showing they support the waivers.

USDA’s rule has a 60-day comment period before it could be finalized. Given that the House of Representatives also flipped to Democratic control, it’s also likely USDA’s rule could end up blocked by specific language in appropriation bills going forward.