Congress Passes 1.1. Trillion Omnibus Spending Package
With strong bipartisan support, Congress passed the $1.1 trillion Omnibus Appropriations Bill in back in December, which funds much of the government through fiscal year 2015. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Bob McCan said the bill contained several key victories for cattlemen and women.
“We were very happy to see a number of issues that have affected our producers addressed in this legislation,” said McCan. “It is clear that Congress recognizes and agrees that the Administration’s regulatory overreach has gone too far and if left unchecked, it will impede the economic growth of rural America.”
Key for cattlemen and women, the report language for the USDA contained a provision instructing the Secretary of Agriculture to submit a report with his recommendations for any changes in the Federal law required to bring the Country of Origin Labeling program into compliance with our international trade obligations. This report would need to be submitted within 15 days of the appeal decision from the WTO or by May 1, 2015, whichever comes first.
“The WTO ruling on the COOL rule was very clear that this provision discriminates against our largest trading partners,” said McCan. “Moreover, this failed legislation has cost U.S. cattle producers in the form of lost revenue and added costs for labeling, all for a program that has not shown benefits to consumers or greater consumption of beef. It is time to fix COOL before our economy is damaged by retaliatory tariffs or our trade relationships are permanently damaged. Failure to abide by our trade obligations sends a signal to our current and future trade partners that they too can pick and choose what provisions to abide by.”
The report also directs the Secretary of Agriculture, not to implement a duplicative beef checkoff. With 78 percent support by cattle producers and an $11.20 return on every dollar invested, the Beef Checkoff has been an immense success. The program is the most effective tool for cattle producers to invest in research, education and promotion of our product, and Congress has made it clear that they support cattlemen and women and oppose a government-run, duplicative beef checkoff under the 1996 Generic Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act.
The bill made a major step in addressing over-burdensome regulation from the EPA by withdrawing the Interpretative Rule as part of the Waters of the United States proposed regulation.
“The EPA’s Interpretative Rule would have had unintended consequences for agricultural producers nationwide, making the Natural Resources Conservation Service a regulatory agency by prescribing limited production practices,” said McCan. “While we, along with all of agriculture, were disappointed Congress did not defund EPA’s larger Waters of the United States efforts, this was a first step demonstrating the concerns of landowners.”
Viable public lands and the ranchers who lease those acres are critical not only to the cattle industry, but to the preservation of those lands for multiple use, wildlife habitat and wildfire prevention and suppression. The bill kept ranchers in the West on the land, holding budgets for the BLM and Forest Service level, despite the President’s request to cut funding for federal grazing and range programs.
There is language included that prevents the Interior Department from listing the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act for the fiscal year and the additional funding to continue sage grouse conservation efforts is important to prevent a future listing of the bird. Listing the sage grouse would take the most successful natural resource stewards, ranchers, off the land.
The bill also contained continued assurance on a number of environmental regulations. Specifically, the bill prevents funding for the EPA to require cattle producers to obtain greenhouse gas permits for livestock and to prevent mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems.
“The passage by both the House and Senate is a clear message that Congress supports our industry and is willing to put a stop the overzealous Administration and their attempt to take production agriculture off the land.”