- Associated Press - Thursday, April 24, 2014
FDA backs off animal feed rule affecting brewers

MILWAUKEE (AP) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it will revise proposed livestock feed rules after hearing objections about the potential cost from brewers who sell grain leftover from making beer to ranchers and dairy farmers.

Beer makers big and small feared they would have to pay for grain testing, equipment, audits and other safety measures at an estimated cost of $13.6 million per brewery, likely affecting the price of beer, beef and dairy products. To avoid passing on those costs, some brewers said they would have simply sent the grain to landfills.

The FDA proposed the rules as part of its implementation of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, which is aimed at preventing outbreaks of foodborne illness. One incentive was the 2007 contamination of pet food from China with melamine, which killed hundreds of dogs and cats in the U.S.

“That was a tragic thing for pets, and it was sort of a wake-up call for everyone involved in food safety,” said Dan McChesney, director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance at the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “If this could happen with pet food, why couldn’t it happen with human food?”

Livestock feed is generally safe, and the FDA is not aware of any problems with brewers’ grain, McChesney said. The agency did not intend to force beer makers to come up with costly food safety plans, but it is concerned about potential contamination between the factory and the farm, he said.

As examples, McChesney mentioned feed being hauled in trucks that also transport fertilizer and chemicals being accidentally dumped in storage bins.

Brewers noted their grain is already covered by food safety rules for humans.


Mille Lacs residents sue Minn. DNR over walleye

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A group of Mille Lacs Lake residents sued the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Thursday, claiming the agency has mismanaged the lake’s struggling walleye population.

DNR officials didn’t consider a 1998 state constitutional amendment regarding Minnesota’s fishing and hunting heritage when developing its walleye management plan for the lake, attorney Erick Kaardal said. Instead, the agency focused only on a treaty with the Ojibwe bands that grants separate fishing rights, he said.

In doing so, “they’ve destroyed the Mille Lacs Lake walleye fishing heritage,” Kaardal said. “There’s no more important Minnesota ecosystem than the Mille Lacs Lake walleye fishery.”

DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen said agency officials couldn’t comment on the lawsuit because they hadn’t reviewed it thoroughly.

The DNR has imposed regulations to limit the walleye harvest this year, including a ban until December on night fishing, a lucrative line for resorts. Kardaal said the lawsuit seeks to restore night fishing and consider Minnesota’s fishing and hunting heritage when making any and all future rules.

The 1998 amendment included a passage that declares hunting and fishing “a valued part of our heritage that shall be forever preserved for the people and shall be managed by law and regulation for the public good.”

Residents say Ojibwe netting and spearing during spawning season is a major reason for the decline. They also cite DNR rules prohibiting anglers from keeping larger walleye, which they say leaves too many big fish to eat smaller fish.


Judge hears arguments in abortion lawsuit

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A state attorney urged a judge Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to void statutes that require doctors to decide if a woman is consenting voluntarily to an abortion and to be present when the woman gets abortion-inducing drugs.

Planned Parenthood sued Dane County Circuit Court last year alleging the statues are too vague. Doctors don’t know how they’re supposed to tell if a woman is lying and don’t know whether they need to be present when the drugs are handed out or when the woman ingests them, the organization contends.

Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar told Judge Richard Niess during oral arguments that no real dispute exists. Planned Parenthood and the state reached an agreement on how to interpret the statutes during a short-lived federal challenge last year.

“There’s no controversy,” she told the judge. “Everyone is saying the same thing.”

Planned Parenthood’s attorney, Susan Crawford, countered that U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb rejected the agreement. She said the deal isn’t binding on anyone and the organization’s doctors still need clarity.

“(The agreement) was not a promise or a contract,” she said.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a GOP bill in April 2012 that requires physicians to determine whether a woman is consenting to an abortion freely and give her information on domestic abuse services if they suspect someone is forcing her into it. Violators would be subject to forfeitures of up to $10,000.


States seek delay in protecting long-eared bat

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A federal plan to protect one of the bat species that are dying by the millions from a fast-moving disease could also create casualties in the forest products industry, say officials in four Midwestern states that are seeking a delay.

The heads of natural resources departments in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this month requesting additional time before the agency decides whether to place the northern long-eared bat on the endangered list.

The service is scheduled to make a final ruling by Oct. 2 - one year after proposing the designation, as required under the Endangered Species Act. Spokeswoman Georgia Parham said Thursday that decisions on listings can be put off under certain circumstances, but she didn’t know whether the case of the northern long-eared bat would qualify.

White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease, has killed more than 5.7 million bats since it turned up in New York in 2006, according to the research and advocacy group Bat Conservation International. It has been detected in 25 states, most recently in Michigan and Wisconsin, which announced the discoveries April 10.

The northern long-eared is among the affected types. It’s also one of more than 750 species covered by a settlement between the federal government and the Center for Biological Diversity, which had sued the Fish and Wildlife Service demanding quicker decisions on a backlog of petitions to add species to the endangered and threatened lists.

In their letter, the state officials said action was needed to protect the northern long-eared bat and prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome.

“However, we believe that all such measures should be appropriately tailored, based on sound scientific data and inclusive of input from our agencies,” they said.

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