Livestock Title — Is it ‘COOL’ to cut health programs?
As members of Congress continue to dissect the 2012 Farm Bill, ag groups draw lines in the sand as to what programs they believe should remain or be eliminated. Should it be the Livestock Title that accounted for $1 million of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 -- the 2008 Farm Bill that expires in 2012? If yes, programs such as the Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) and fever tick funding would be eliminated.
As reported in the March 7 article, “Taking a bite out of the Farm Bill,” the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association passed a national resolution against the Livestock Title, due to inclusion of COOL and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administrations’ (GIPSA) livestock marketing rule.If successful, this resolution would eliminate health programs not being funded in the Title, including pseudorabies and the fever tick program. U.S. cattle industry losses from cattle fever are estimated at approximately $1 billion annually in the absence of the fever tick program.
While the Livestock Title’s funding is minute compared to the 2008 Farm Bill, estimated at $284 billion, some organizations are asking for this Title to be revamped to add provisions, such as disaster assistance in times of natural disasters. (See “Farm Bill financial breakdown” for other programs funded by this bill.)
Six organizations have united to defend health provisions within the Livestock Title and the Research and Related Matters titles, with the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association taking the lead, according to an April 10 press release. See “USCA statement” for comments from the cattlemen’s president.
These groups also address the importance of being prepared in the event of an animal disease outbreak, the need to address the lack of large-animal veterinarians in the country, and funding to assist after Mother Nature vents her fury on the ag sector.
See related article, page 2D, for more on animal health issues.
Among the issues addressed in a joint letter to four ranking members of Congress, including Lucas, was the continuation of three different Livestock Disaster Assistance Programs.
According to the letter, the USDA made disaster programs payments to producers as of January 2010 exceeding $175 million, as enacted within the 2008 Farm Bill. The groups ask that these programs be included in the Livestock Title, due to the “uncertainty surrounding the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) program” and added it “is not worth the gamble to those within the livestock sector.”
These figures do not reflect payments from the adverse weather conditions experienced in 2011. Texas agricultural drought losses totaled $7.62 billion, with livestock accounting for $3.23 billion.
As the number of ag organizations head to the nation’s capitol to make their intentions known, the severity of funding cuts won’t be known until the Bill becomes final.
In the same 2010 congressional report, the Bipartisan Debt Reduction Task Force suggested mandatory reductions in agricultural spending by $30 billion through Fiscal Year 2020. And extensions are doubtful.
Farm Bill financial breakdown
According to a Dec. 13, 2010, Congressional Research Service “Actual Farm Bill Spending and Cost Estimates” report for Congress, 97 percent of the $284 billion farm bill expenditures (for an estimated five years) accounts for four of the 15 titles that comprised the massive 2008 Farm Bill. This includes:
•Nutrition (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps) -- 67 percent, or $188.9 billion.
•Farm commodity support -- 15 percent, or $41.6 billion.
•Mandatory conservation program -- 9 percent, or $24.1 billion.
•Crop insurance -- 8 percent, or $21.8 billion.
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) President Jon Wooster commented on the provisions within the Livestock Title in an April 10 USCA press release:
“There have been a few that would like to take a step backward and eliminate the Livestock Title,” Wooster said. “However, this seems to stand in the way of the many successes brought about by previous titles. There are ranchers throughout Texas who are still battling fever ticks; a ‘Sense of Congress’ on this issue will ensure that this remains in the forefront of lawmakers’ minds as an issue still in need of a resolution.
“Furthermore, comprehensive animal health issues should always remain a topic that the industry can support. There is a need for further development of Bovine Tuberculosis and Brucellosis vaccines, delivery systems, and diagnostic tests. Programs that would target such new innovations would be included within this title.
“Lastly, there remains a critical need to provide for a specific placement for the livestock disaster programs currently located within the complex Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE) package,” Wooster said.