The Senate-House farm bill conference committee Monday reported out a farm bill that didn’t contain two major issues many in animal agriculture find important—repeal of mandatory country-of-origin labeling and a permanent fix to the hotly debated GIPSA rule.
In response, many major ag groups vowed to work to defeat the legislation.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association backed this up later in the day with a letter joined by the American Meat Institute and several poultry and pork lobbies, all warning they would “actively oppose” final passage if their issues are not addressed.
The most high-profile loss for the beef sector beef was the Senate’s rejection of its efforts to repeal county-of-origin labeling (COOL) rules that have roiled cattle markets in Canada and Mexico. But a second defeat Monday for the larger meat industry was over regulations promulgated by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) within the USDA.
In both cases, the outcome reflected the continued power of the National Farmers Union (NFU) among Senate Democrats. The NFU was said to have weighed in heavily behind Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who comes from a farm background. And Tester is allied with independent cow-calf operators, who are supportive of COOL and have their own running war with the centralized packer and beef lobby.
Indeed, the strength of the rhetoric Monday was surprising since the farm bill includes close to $5 billion in new disaster aid for the livestock industry, which has been hurt by both winter storms and severe summer drought. Additional funds have been carved out within the conservation title as well.
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