USCA members complete D.C. fly-in
The U.S. Cattlemen's Association recently wrapped up its second Washington, D.C. fly-in of the year. The USCA delegation included ranchers from Texas, North Dakota, Kansas, Montana, Virginia and Maryland. The fly-in came on the heels of the House Agriculture Committee's passage of the House farm bill, the "Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012" (FARRM). USCA is urging House members to expedite the farm bill debate by bringing the legislation to the floor for a full House vote but warned that it will oppose two amendments attached to the House bill regarding country of origin labeling and the proposed GIPSA rule.
USCA Vice President and fly-in participant Chuck Kiker, Texas, said the fly-in was very successful. "USCA members met with their respective lawmakers concerning what USCA considers the pros and cons of the House farm bill and urged the House leadership to bring the bill to the House floor for consideration and debate as quickly as possible," said Kiker. "USCA members conveyed the importance of certain farm bill provisions to the continued viability and success of rural America as well as those provisions in the bill that are detrimental to their livelihoods. Most of the nation's agriculture producers are suffering through a disastrous drought and many have been affected by wildfires. Crops have been decimated, entire cow herds are being sold off because of a lack of forage and overhead costs are skyrocketing. Ag lending institutions look to federal farm policy programs and safeguards for added confidence. Since the current farm bill expires at the end of September, enacting farm policy should be a priority for Congress prior to the summer recess so producers and their lenders can plan for the future."
USCA was disappointed in the House passage of several amendments to FARRM, including Rep. Randy Neugebauer's, R-TX, provision which could jeopardize one of USCA's priority issues, the COOL statute.
USCA member Kenny Graner, North Dakota, commented on Neugebauer's amendment saying, "This is an unnecessary, overly aggressive amendment and the consequences, intended or not, leave the U.S. COOL law vulnerable to alteration or elimination when debate gets underway on the House floor. The World Trade Organization ruling in the Canadian trade case against the U.S. found no fault with the COOL statute. The necessary changes to implementation can be accomplished through the rule-writing process and this should be left to the affected agencies without the intervention of Congress. The inclusion of this amendment in the House draft Farm Bill is very disappointing and its addition to the overall House farm bill only hampers the passage of comprehensive, bipartisan legislation for U.S. cattle producers."
Kiker noted that while USCA is urging House leadership to bring FARRM to the floor so that it can advance through conference with the U.S. Senate, he made clear that USCA will work to defeat the two amendments offered by Rep. Neugebauer and Rep. Conaway, "These two amendments are central issues for USCA and we will continue to urge members to support a repeal of both measures once the bill reaches the floor and then conference committee."
During the fly-in USCA members also met with officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. During these meetings USCA reiterated its support for COOL along with the need to maintain high health and safety standards by not weakening U.S. barriers to Foot and Mouth Disease. USCA also provided input on USDA's proposed animal traceability plan.
"USCA members covered a wide range of issues," stated USCA Deputy Director of Government and Industry Relations Kelly Fogarty. "Also covered during this fly-in were key issues like estate tax reform, strengthening the Packers and Stockyards Act and importance of continually increasing exports of U.S. beef.
"We greatly appreciate the USCA members that took the time to travel to Washington, D.C. We also appreciate the agency officials, Members of Congress and staff that met with the delegation. Fly-ins like these allow for a greater understanding of the issues affecting the U.S. cattle industry."