Ag spending bill passes House, Senate

by Staff
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WASHINGTON – Industry was pleased that the House and Senate passed a 2012 federal spending ‘minibus’ bill Nov. 17 that includes language blocking the US Department of Agriculture from implementing controversial reforms to livestock and poultry marketing. The bill that passed included the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which funds the US Department of Agriculture, the American Meat Institute relayed. The House approved the bill in a 298-121 vote and the Senate voted 70-30 in favor of the bill.

The spending bill includes:

• Language prohibiting USDA from continuing or finalizing work on certain provisions of the proposed rule on livestock and poultry marketing and procurement that was proposed by the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) in June 2010.
• A $1.004 billion for the Food Safety and Inspection Service, which does not include new user fees for meat, poultry and egg inspection.
• $2.497 billion for the Food and Drug Administration.
• Full funding for both the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development at $200 million and $34.5 million, respectfully.

The so-called GIPSA rule, proposed last year by the USDA’s Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyard’s Administration, would have wreaked havoc on the US cattle industry causing livestock producers to lose an estimated $169 million, according to Colin Woodall, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association vice president of government affairs. Congress barred USDA from conducting any further work this year on sections of the rule not yet finalized, he said.

The agricultural appropriations bill is part of a $1.04 trillion bill adopted by both the US House and US Senate. The agricultural spending bill will halt USDA from working this year on sections of the rule mandated by Congress during the 2008 Farm Bill related to competitive injury, unfair practices and undue preference, NCBA explained. This part of the proposed rule caused the most concern for cattlemen and women.

“AMI is pleased by the agriculture appropriations bill and commends the Congress for maintaining funding for federal meat and poultry inspection and agriculture export promotion, including the US Meat Export Federation and the US Poultry and Egg Export Council,” said J. Patrick Boyle, AMI president. “We also commend lawmakers’ action to prevent GIPSA from proceeding with the most disruptive and costly provisions contained in its 2010 proposed rule.”

The National Chicken Council is grateful for the swift congressional action in passing the FY12 agriculture appropriations bill, said Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council.

“We applaud Congress for their strong bipartisan support in recognizing that USDA’s actions during the rule making process exceeded congressional intent and for affirming that portions of this rule would have allowed harmful government interference in the private market for livestock and poultry,” he said. "This latest action by Congress is a culmination of the bipartisan concerns expressed by both chambers since the proposed rule was issued last year.”

The bill next goes to the president for his signature.
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