Wednesday, December 10, 2014

House spending bill orders agriculture secretary not to implement a new beef checkoff program

The $1.1 trillion year-end spending bill that House Republicans filed Tuesday night includes several provisions related to agriculture. Among the 1,600-pages of the bill are "an abundance of policy riders—backed by trucking, mining and securities interests—shows the [Grand Old Party’s] new clout,"  David Rogers reports for Politico. "But the giant measure also reflects a genuine give-and-take with Senate Democrats in hopes of averting a government shutdown veto fight with President Barack Obama." Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the House is pushing for a floor vote as early as Thursday.

Legislation orders Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack "not to implement a new beef checkoff program, a move the secretary made because of an industry impasse over making changes to the existing program," reports Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association applauded the provision. Spokesman Chase Adams told Agri-Pulse, “We appreciate Congress' support of the beef checkoff program in siding with America's cattlemen and women, against the Administration's duplicate checkoff."

The program "is a producer-funded marketing and research program designed to increase domestic and/or international demand for beef," says Cattleman's Beef Promotion and Research Board. "This can be done through promotion, research and new product development, and a variety of other marketing tools. The Cattlemen's Beef Board and USDA oversee the collection and spending of checkoff funds."

Lawmakers will likely have to pass a new continuing resolution to keep the government in operation while the spending agreement moves through the House and Senate this week," reports Agri-Pulse. "The continuing resolution that’s now funding the government expires Thursday." Agri-Pulse is subscription only, but a free trial is available by clicking here.

Other agriculture related provisions in the bill:
  • The Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration would continue to be prohibited from implementing new regulations on the livestock and poultry industry. Recipients of benefits under the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program would be allowed to use their benefits to buy white potatoes. 
  • The ban on the slaughter of horses would continue in effect because of a prohibition, included in the bill, on USDA inspection of horse processing.
  • The Department of Interior would be barred from listing the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.
  • The Secretary is asked to ensure that the revised federal dietary guidelines due next year don’t incorporate environmental factors into the recommendations, a move that could discourage meat and dairy consumption.

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