Thinly sliced: Rabbi welcomes cell-grown pork, producers balk at tariffs dispute, and more

This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.

Tariff time. As President Trump threatens to impose $60 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports, ag leaders are worried their industry will bear the brunt of the fallout. Soybean growers and pork producers in particular fear China may target their product with retaliatory measures, Bloomberg reports. At least Trump chose the right guy for the job: Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, is also the former governor of Iowa, the largest pork-producing state and second-largest soy-producing state in the country. According to Ag Update, Branstad “looks good, he’s as energized as ever.” Here’s hoping he stays that way.

McAgeism. A McDonald’s franchisee is suing the fast-food giant for age discrimination, reports New Jersey Law Journal. In his lawsuit, the 80-year-old plaintiff essentially argues that that requiring franchise upgrades, like self-serving kiosks, is unfair to older franchisees, who could end up spending millions to “modernize” their facilities without reaping the rewards.

Chow down. As if trying to understand what you can eat during Passover wasn’t confusing enough, now comes word that pork, the forbidden fruit of the Jewish people, could be kosher. In an interview published on Wednesday by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, an Israeli rabbi appears to say that when pork is grown in a lab, the original pig cell “loses its original identity and therefore cannot be defined as forbidden for consumption.” In other words, it’s the animal that’s kosher, not the food. This interpretation comes a few years after an American rabbi similarly proclaimed the laws of kashrut didn’t forbid a lab-grown cheeseburger. A shanda for the goyim?

Un-bill-ievable. On Thursday afternoon, the House of Representatives approved a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, keeping the federal government funded through October and avoiding a shutdown. But what’s in the 2,232-page bill, which was delivered to lawmakers a little after 8 p.m. last night, is still being discovered.

Here’s what we know about food and ag: Agri-Pulse finds the bill contains an agreement to rework the Section 199A tax benefit. The section’s so-called “grain glitch,” which was created as part of the recent GOP tax reform, allowed farmers in agriculture cooperatives to claim a 20-percent-deduction on gross payments from sales, while farmers who weren’t in co-ops could only claim a 20 percent deduction on net business income. That provision was seen by some, like the National Farmers Union, as beneficial for family farms and co-ops, and opposed by Sonny Perdue, who today said the provision was “picking winners and losers.”

The bill also includes $600 million for a pilot program to extend rural broadband, a $139 million increase in agricultural research, and a provision that exempts thousands of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) from reporting emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Speaking of pollution: The Hill reports that the spending bill doesn’t shrink the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nor does it provide an expected fast track to repeal the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule.

Elsewhere, Dave Jamieson of the Huffington Post says there’s a small tip-pooling provision tucked into the bill. The deal, which was arranged by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), amends the Fair Labor Standards Act to forbid employers from sharing tips with owners, managers, or supervisors, and require that the money stay with workers. But it doesn’t do anything to prevent pooling, which means servers may have to share their tips with cooks and dishwashers.

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