Washington, D.C. - Following nearly four weeks of debate, the U.S. Senate passed the 2007 Farm Bill, according to U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.
"This legislation promotes competitive markets and seeks to reform farm support programs. There is much reform needed with current farm programs and this bill deals with many of them but much more should be addressed in the future. I am constantly in contact with Wyoming producers who voice their opinions about what they expect and don’t expect from a Farm Bill. Folks in Wyoming believe that their checks should come from an auctioneer or buyer, not the government. We should help our producers but not to the point of completely supporting them," said Enzi.
The bill contains language agreed to by the House of Representatives that would implement country-of-origin labeling by September 30, 2008. The proposal would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to do what it has failed to do under current law. Labeling would be required for beef, lamb, pork and goat products. The House language establishes a three-label system for meat products that would differentiate completely domestic products from completely foreign products.
Enzi sent a letter to Chairman Harkin on Sept. 25 asking for inclusion of COOL language in the bill.
Interstate Meat Shipments
The Farm Bill contains language that would ensure meat tested in state with the strictest federal standards could be sold across state lines. The language, similar to a stand alone bill Enzi introduced earlier this year, S.1150, would open markets and expand economic opportunities for producers. As the law is written now, meat and poultry products that are not federally inspected may only be sold within the borders of the state, even after passing a state inspection which is on par with federal inspection guidelines. Meat and poultry from some foreign countries are allowed to be freely shipped and sold anywhere in the U.S. Enzi believes it is important to fix this inconsistency so Wyoming producers do not have to jump through more federal hoops than foreign producers.
The Supplemental Disaster Assistance Program which allows the federal government to plan ahead for weather related disasters to help producers, consumers and taxpayers, was included in final passage. Enzi likened the program to a family starting a rainy day savings account to ensure protection against future misfortunes. The federal government does not have a rainy day account for agriculture disasters or any other disasters. This program would provide fiscal responsibility and predictable assistance to agriculture producers while easing the minds of taxpayers.
The bill also contains language that would facilitate efforts to make the current voluntary reporting system mandatory. Packers, processors and importers are required to report critical market data to the USDA, which is then calculated, published and made available to the industry. These reported prices and other information have become an integral part of setting prices under contracts and in the open market. Included language will speed up the process for making this program, critical for transparency in livestock markets, mandatory. The livestock title also contains a ban on packer ownership of cattle shortly prior to slaughter.
Enzi sent a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture on May 14 urging the department to implement the laws that are critical for transparency in livestock markets.
Sheep, Sugar Beets, Conservation, Brucellosis
A continuation of the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, which plays an important role in enhancing the marketing of sheep and goat products in the U.S., was included in the bill as well as a 20-cent increase in the loan rate for graded wool. Funding for the National Sheep and Goat Industry Improvement Center is also included.
The enrollment acreage for the Conservation Reserve Program, Farmland Protection Program and the Grassland Reserve Program levels are maintained in the bill in addition to an increase in funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
The bill includes a phased-in one-cent loan rate increase for sugar beets and a marketing allotment program to accommodate for Mexican sugar imports expected to begin in January 2008. Language in the legislation also authorizes the USDA to offer bids for excess domestic sugar to be sold for ethanol and bio-fuel production.
The language also directs the USDA to make veterinary and brucellosis research a priority. Wyoming has been brucellosis free since December 2006.
The bill will now go to a conference committee where differences will be worked out between the Senate and House version of the bill. Enzi will work with his colleagues to figure out ways to decrease spending levels in the bill through the conference process.
CLICK HERE to read Senator Enzi's floor statement on the Farm Bill.