COOL antagonists oppose Farm Bill
After a two-year delay, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 2642, the Agriculture Act of 2014 -- also known as the 2014 Farm Bill -- Jan. 29, by a vote of 251-166. The bill now awaits its turn in the Senate. While this vote came after the Farm Bill Conference Committee released the complete bill Jan. 27, passage was uncertain, since lobbyists and some agriculture groups opposed the bill, due to programs such as Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).
According to U.S. Cattlemen’s Beef Association Executive Vice President Jess Peterson in a Farm Bill conference report, if the 2014 Farm Bill passes, an economic analysis of COOL must be conducted within 180 days of the Farm Bill’s enactment.
The National Cattleman’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Turkey Federation, the National Pork Producers Council, and two national meat associations sent a letter Jan. 27 to the chairmen and ranking members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. These groups said that since a World Trade Organization-compliant resolution was not reached, “retaliatory actions by the governments of Mexico and Canada” will be taken.
“This retaliation will be crippling to our industries and threaten the long-term relationship with two of our most important export markets,” the groups wrote.
If opponents were successful, the bill would further delay much-needed aid to ranchers across the nation who have been without federal aid since the livestock disaster payments and assistance provisions of the Farm Bill expired Sept. 30, 2011.
The Texas livestock industry suffered $2.06 billion in losses in 2011, due to the drought that began in October 2010.
The Center for Rural Affairs joined 97 other groups in sending a letter to the Conference Committee, expressing concerns that COOL may be weakened, or that use of a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) label may be encouraged.
“This North American or NAFTA meat label is entirely unacceptable,” said John Crabtree of the Center for Rural Affairs in a Jan. 24 press release. “Moreover, the Farm Bill Conference Committee is not the place for this effort to undermine COOL.”
What’s in it for ranchers?
If the Farm Bill meets with House and Senate approval, “The livestock sector alone will benefit from the $7 billion in funding that is appropriated to industry-specific programs, including livestock disaster assistance, conservation funding, export promotion, veterinary services grants, and expanded research potential,” said U.S. Cattlemen’s Association President Jon Wooster.
According to a Senate Fact Sheet on Livestock within the Farm Bill,
•Almost $4 billion will be allocated for livestock disaster assistance, retroactive to 2011.
•The Livestock Indemnity Program, which provides 75 percent of fair market value for livestock lost due to the weather, is reinstated. A retroactive clause was added for ranchers who lost cattle during the Atlas storm in South Dakota in mid-October 2013.
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the $1 trillion, five-year bill in early February. Other provisions included in the 900-plus-page bill will be addressed in the future, including reduction in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as Food Stamps.
U.S. Cattlemen’s Beef Association Executive Vice President Jess Peterson, in a Farm Bill conference report, stated that venison also was added to the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) marketing program, with little or no media coverage.
Peterson mentioned the inclusion of venison in the “definition of covered community” in the Agriculture Act of 2014 -- also known as the 2014 Farm Bill.
According to buckbreeders.com, “COOL has been on the legislative wish list for the deer industry for many years ... to strengthen the domestic venison market.”