Cattlemen Give House Farm Bill Mixed Review
WASHINGTON - The U.S. House of Representatives passed its Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act of 2007 (H.R. 2419) today by a vote of 231 to 191.
The bill contains many improvements for cattlemen, such as increased funding for conservation programs and some modest fixes to the mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law. But flaws remain within the bill, such as an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) cap and payment limitations for conservation. This language makes many ranchers ineligible for Farm Bill conservation programs.
“NCBA is supportive of the legislative process that led to this Farm Bill,” says NCBA’s Executive Director of Legislative Affairs Colin Woodall. “This bill isn’t perfect, but it addresses many of the issues our members identified as priorities. As this debate moves to the Senate, we’ll stay focused on those priorities and on addressing the AGI and payment limitation problem.”
NCBA says payment limitations don’t make sense for conservation.
“The goals of voluntary conservation programs are compromised when artificial caps and limits are applied,” says Woodall. “Cattlemen will urge the Senate to exempt cost share programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) from the AGI caps and payment limitations.”
NCBA also worked to oppose any amendments that would alter the competitive structure of the cattle industry.
“NCBA policy supports a competitive, free-enterprise market, and the House chose not to include any amendments that would limit cattlemen’s ability to market their cattle,” says Woodall. “Producers need the freedom and flexibility to market their cattle in ways that provide the best return on their investment.”
Within the Conservation Title, the budget for EQIP increases to $2 billion per year over the life of the bill. The bill will also broaden eligibility to EQIP funds to include custom feeders and livestock markets.
On the issue of mandatory COOL, an amendment was included that alleviates most of the record-keeping burden for cattle producers and addresses the dilemma of labeling ground beef by designating it from mixed or multiple origins.
“We know that COOL will become mandatory on September 30, 2008,” says Woodall. “The fixes in the Farm Bill certainly don’t repair all of the problems in the COOL law, but we’ve come a long way toward making it more workable for our cattlemen.”