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Latham will address livestock issues at Focus on Farm Policy

Food safety, COOL may be part of 2007 farm bill

By Jeff Caldwell

The livestock industry in the U.S., whether because of animal disease or trade policy, has been on a bumpy ride in recent years.

Can the 2007 farm bill smooth out a few of the bumps in the road?

Iowa Congressman Tom Latham will try to tackle this topic as part of our upcoming meeting: Focus on Farm Policy: How the next farm bill will affect your bottom line. The conference, sponsored by the Iowa Soybean Association and NuTech Seeds, Inc., will take place at the Gateway Center in Ames, Iowa, Feb. 24-25.

The two-day event will bring together top lawmakers like U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, and farm policy analysts like "Godfather of Freedom to Farm," ag economist Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh. Latham will be followed by a livestock policy discussion with National Cattlemen's Beef Association chief economist Gregg Doud, National Pork Producers Association vice president for public policy Kirk Ferrell and Minnesota Turkey Growers Association executive director Steve Olson.

Latham, a 57-year-old Alexander native, farmer and co-owner of Latham Seeds, has long been a proponent of the livestock industry in his work in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he is in his sixth term representing Iowa. Through policy actions in recent years, he has acted to increase competition and transparency in the beef marketplace, as well as authorizing funding for animal disease tracking and study in Iowa. Late last year, Latham watched as President George W. Bush signed into law funding to expand and improve the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Animal Disease Center in Ames. Latham, whose November 2005 proposal added another $58.8 million in federal funding to the $462 million already secured for the facility, said the center demonstrates the importance of Iowa's role in protecting U.S. animal agriculture, from producer to consumer.

"These funds will place this facility on the front line in America's defense against animal diseases to meet national needs for animal health research, diagnosis and product evaluation," he said Nov. 10. "Today was a day to celebrate and recognize Iowa's leadership role in the world when it comes to agriculture, agricultural research and consumer protection."

It is food safety issues like those the NADC facility in Ames can help address that Latham says will be the highest priority for the livestock industry in the 2007 farm bill.

"There could be some issues to be addressed as far as food safety, be it BSE or potential avian influenza outbreaks," he said. "Also addressed could be a way of getting consistent funding and, rather than on a spot basis, have a program or the ability to react in case of a disease outbreak or agriterrorism.

"I think it shows how important the animal health center is in Ames."

Iowa's only member of Congress on the House Appropriations Committee, Latham also led an effort in 2002 to continue the requirement for more information disclosure by packers and increase competition among beef market participants, more commonly known as the Mandatory Price Reporting Act. The bill, H.R.5247, sought an amendment to the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to "increase competition and transparency among packers required to report information on the price and quantity of livestock purchased by the packer."

"We actually got it into the ag appropriations bill in 1999, which started the Mandatory Price Reporting Act, and it expired at the end of September of last year," Latham said. "The House actually voted--with minor modifications in the swine area--to extend it for five years. The Senate wanted a one-year extension. Right now, it is extended on a voluntary basis."

There are other areas, like country-of-origin labeling and the national animal identification system, that could be touched upon in the 2007 farm bill. But, despite a budget crunch that is weighing upon other sectors of federal spending, policy for the livestock industry, because of its roots in the private sector instead of in Congress, will not be as subject to the budget ax.

"I don't think, really, that any of these have real budget consequences. For animal ID, we had $33 million last year. As far as affecting country-of-origin labeling and things like that, we won't have a problem," Latham said. "I don't see, outside of new initiatives for food safety and agriterrorism, a lot of things with additional new spending."

Jeff Caldwell can be reached by phone at 515-280-5405 or by e-mail at jcaldwell@mchsi.com. For more information or to register for Focus on Farm Policy, go online to www.midwestagjournal.com/farmbill or call Cathy Erickson at WHO Radio at 515-245-8842 or Kristen Andrews at the Midwest Ag Journal/High Plains Journal at 620-227-1885.

Date: 2/8/06


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