Year in Review:The Year of the Farmer, unresolved issues
Todd Staples during the Lincoln Day Dinner
After years of discussion, the animal identification program went into effect in 2013, both on the state and federal levels. While this program is being implemented, farmers and ranchers are watching Capitol Hill as Congress considers the Farm Bill. Without this, the ag industry continues to be uncertain if and when disaster assistance will be available and what subsidized programs will continue.
As reported Jan. 1, the 2008 Farm Bill, which was extended once, was not extended for a second time. As the Senate approved its version in late May, the House approved a partial Farm Bill in July -- without Supplemental Nutritional Assistant Programs (SNAP), also known as food stamps. In September, the House completed a full Farm Bill. A full Farm Bill did not receive Congressional approval, however, due to major differences, including:
•SNAP -- The Senate proposed to cut $4.5 billion over a decade, while the House proposed $39 billion.
•Crop insurance reform -- In 2012, the federal Crop Insurance Program paid a record-breaking $17.3 billion in crop losses. A major concern is that taxpayers funded $8.4 billion of these payments.
•At the current time, no disaster aid is available for cattlemen who contended with the drought of 2011-12 or for South Dakota ranchers who lost entire herds to the pre-winter storm, Atlas, since this assistance expired Sept. 30, 2011.
It is believed Congress will approve a new Farm Bill in January; otherwise the Farm Bill’s dairy program formula will take effect, with milk prices possibly escalating to $7.50 per gallon.
One of the programs in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills was Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), which continues to be debated.
After the June 2012 Appellate ruling regarding the World Trade Organization decision that the United States was not in compliance, the United States had a May 23 deadline to come into compliance.
Although the U.S. government met the deadline, a six-month grace period for implementation was allowed. Prior to this, a lawsuit and an appeal were filed.
In July, two Canadian and six U.S. organizations filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, to denounce the latest compliance rules. Later, Mexico joined this group.
In the federal government’s defense, four groups, including the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and the National Farmers Union, filed a motion to intervene.By mid-August, Canada filed a compliance review through the World Trade Organization.
Currently, one case continues in the U.S. District Court, another in the World Trade Organization, and a third might be introduced by the U.S. House of Representatives as an amendment within the Farm Bill to repeal the program.
Another program from a previous Farm Bill, the Renewal Fuel Standards, is also under review.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting comments after the American Petroleum Institute and American Petro-Chemical Manufacturers requested a waiver from the Renewable Fuel Standards. The oil companies based their concern on “inadequate domestic supply of renewable fuel.” The petitioners asked the EPA to reduce the corn ethanol blend to 13 billion gallons in 2014, down from the mandated 14.4 billion gallons.
When the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was approved, one of the concerns in the food industry was whether the government would furlough meat inspectors -- numbering 6,290 establishments -- nationwide.
The furlough was dodged when the government approved the “Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013.”
Although inspectors were spared, workers lost their jobs when a Plainview beef plant closed due to the liquidation of cattle herds across the nation in the wake of the drought.
While this plant closed, the Sam Kane Beef Processors, based in Corpus Christi, changed ownership to a group of Texas ranchers and cattlemen.
Also related to slaughter plants, a revised Uniform Retail Meat Identify Standards was released, with common names to be used for beef and pork products. Cattlemen across the nation voiced their concerns as to the similarity between beef and pork cuts.
Disease is a concern that can wipe out any operation, and in 2013, the following diseases were noted:
•The Texas Animal Health Commission designated Kleberg County at high risk for Equine Piroplasmosis (Piro) in March and began testing April 8.
•In May, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea was reported in four states. The new virus that entered the United States has no treatment, and this country’s swineherd has no immunity to the disease.
•In August, a salmonella outbreak was reported after people handled live poultry.
Year of the Farmer
The late Paul Harvey’s 1978 tribute, “So God Made a Farmer,” regained its popularity when Dodge aired a Ram trucks commercial during Super Bowl XLVII, and throughout the year, state leaders and entertainers promoted the Year of the Farmer.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and country music artist Easton Corbin promoted this during visits to South Central Texas in 2013.
As a new year begins, will family farms continue with all the hardships being faced? Will farmers’ sons say, as in the Paul Harvey tribute, that they want to spend their lives “doing what Dad does”?