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Agriculture Today

Cattlemen get a legislative update

Cattlemen get a legislative update
Bill Hyman, executive director of the Texas ICA

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November 23, 2011
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FALLS CITY -- A number of regulatory and legislative bills are being discussed in Austin, as well as the nation’s capitol, that could affect everyday life for the cattle industry. Issues such as the animal-disease traceability plan, the Farm Bill, and even child labor laws are under scrutiny. While changes may be on the horizon, one thing is certain: Cattlemen will have to apply for the new agriculture sales-tax exemption, which goes into effect Sunday, Jan. 1; otherwise they will be charged sales tax.

Bill Hyman, executive director of the state’s Independent Cattlemen’s Association (ICA), addressed members of the South Central Texas Chapter of the association Oct. 18 in Falls City during the chapter’s last quarterly meeting of the year.

Hyman explained that abuse is the reason cited by the state comptroller’s office for asking the ag industry to register for an ag sales-tax exemption number.

While this change is already under way, Hyman also addressed issues that members of the ag industry have the opportunity to voice their concerns about, including:

•The proposed animal-disease traceability program by the Texas Animal Health Commission. Members of the ICA argued their case to the Texas Animal Health Commission on Oct. 18. (See “Cattlemen question the scope of state ID program,” Oct. 26, for more on this topic.)

•Proposed changes to the child labor laws. Youth will not be allowed to help neighbors, Hyman said. He encouraged members to contact their congressmen to voice their opinions. See “Labor snapshot” for some of the proposed changes.

Other congressional discussion includes the 2012 Farm Bill, currently being discussed in Washington. Hyman said the bill is facing massive cuts, including more closures of Farm Service Agency offices. Hyman spoke briefly of the need for U.S. Department of Agriculture guarantee and direct operating loans, since banks are lending less money for farm/ranch loans.

Disaster-assistance programs should be included in the Farm Bill, Hyman said. Presently, producers must sign up for an estimated payment and wait until the Congressional Appropriations Committee meets to approve funding. It is time to enforce the need to have funding for disaster in place, he said.

Initial reports of the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) ruling have gone against the United States, Hyman told his audience. Opponents to COOL want to add animals birthed in another state and processed in the United States to be labeled “Product of the U.S.A.”

While the ag industry is taking a hard hit in Congress with the Farm Bill, victories for the ag industry were seen, Hyman said. Legislation that allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate dust was defeated for at least two years, he said.

While drought conditions continue in the state, water issues will be a key topic to watch, he added.

A move to classify all creeks in the state for light recreation will cause problems, Hyman said. If a creek is classified as light recreation, then swimming and boating are available. Oklahoma’s streams are classified as non-recreational, and all the streams passed the testing for this classification.

Citing a Plum Creek study, Hyman outlined problems with feral hogs contaminating streams with E. coli.

Texas ranchers continue to battle drought and extreme wildfire danger, and Hyman complimented the efforts of those who donated to assist the wildfire victims in Bastrop. The state ICA members offered monetary donations, as well as 350 round bales and 1,000 square bales to those in need.

Also during the meeting, Kitty Sue Quinn, executive director of the Texas Land & Mineral Owners Association, addressed the members regarding abandoned oil and gas wells and the protection of groundwater as interest in capitalizing on the Eagle Ford shale exploration continues. See related article, page 2D.

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