Cattlemen chew over Farm Bill issues
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Jess Peterson discusses the proposed 2012 Farm Bill during the June Independent Cattlemen’s Association Convention in San Marcus.
SAN MARCOS -- The clock is ticking for the 2008 Farm Bill, set to expire Sept. 30. Cattlemen attending the Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas annual convention June 22 in San Marcos were given a glance at what is included in the Senate version of the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 (aka 2012 Farm Bill). With the passage of the Senate version, approved June 21 by a 64 to 35 vote, the five-year bill accounts for $969 billion of the federal budget, designated for agriculture, farm, and nutrition programs. The Senate did include $23 billion in deficit reduction.
Kate Maher, director for member services of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, outlined three bills that were not included or were rejected by the Senate.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Amendment No. 2252 that would mandate on-farm production practices was defeated. This amendment would allow the federal government to mandate on-farm production practices of animal care. While this legislation was directed mainly at the egg industry, cattlemen are concerned.
Maher mentioned a recent blog post by Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, “The long and the short is, key lawmakers bowed to pressure from the meat industry, specifically the pork and cattle industries.”
While this amendment failed, Maher described H.R. 3798, The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, as a “deal with the devil.” Included in this bill are hen housing and treatment standards.
Another controversial amendment rejected was No. 2372 by U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns that would “prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection (EPA) Agency from conducting aerial surveillance to inspect agricultural operations or to record images of agricultural operations.”
If approved, the amendment would prohibit aerial flyovers as a form of inspection for the Clean Water Act. It does not prevent EPA personnel from conducting on-site inspections.
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint’s Amendment No. 2276, also rejected, would prohibit mandatory or compulsory check-off programs. If approved, the beef check-off would have been affected.
While Maher discussed rejected amendments, Jess Peterson, executive vice president of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, highlighted provisions in the Farm Bill.
Peterson said a Miscellaneous Title with a livestock subtitle was included. The title provision contains provisions for research and development for competitive grants for research into diseases, such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, and fever tick eradication.
Eradication of these diseases would benefit cattlemen by reducing the economic strain placed on them in time of disease outbreaks.
The Livestock Disaster Assistance Program will now be housed in Title I of the Farm Bill and a predator losses provision was included in the Livestock Indemnity Program.
While the two national cattle organizations agreed on many of the topics included in the Farm Bill, Peterson mentioned two controversial topics not included in the Senate version -- mandatory Country of Origin Labeling and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration regulations.
Peterson’s concern was short-lived, as the U.S. House Agriculture Committee on July 11 included amendments regarding these programs. See related article page 2D for more.
Other legislative issues cattlemen have addressed and will continue to voice their opinions about include:
•Youth labor laws as proposed by the Department of Labor
•Free trade agreements
•Regulatory dust provisions by the EPA
•Clean Water Act provisions.