WASHINGTON – Late in the day on Dec. 11 with a vote of 219 to 206, the US House of Representatives passed a $1 trillion dollar 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which funds much of the government through Sept. 30, 2015. The Senate is expected to take up the measure soon. With large bipartisan support in the House, all indications point to the bill will pass.

This bill addressed many high-priority issues affecting US beef producers, said Bob McCan, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) president. “It is clear that Congress recognizes and agrees that the administration’s regulatory zeal has gone too far and if left unchecked, it will impede the economic growth of rural America.”

The bill instructs Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack 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 US international trade obligations. This report needs 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,” McCan said. “Moreover, this failed legislation has cost US 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 Secretary of Agriculture was also directed not to implement a duplicative beef checkoff. The Beef Checkoff Program is the most effective tool for cattle producers to invest in research, education and promotion of their product, McCan said. “With 78 percent support by cattle producers and an $11.20 return on every dollar invested, the Beef Checkoff has been an immense success,” he added. “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 also directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw the Waters of the United States Interpretative rule. “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,” McCan said. “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.”

Language to continue defunding the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) provisions plus many environmental regulations is also included in the bill. Specifically, the bill prevents funding for the EPA that requires cattle producers to obtain greenhouse gas permits for livestock and to prevent mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure-management systems.

The bill also prohibited the Department of Interior from listing the sage grouse on the Endangered Species list, which would threaten the viability of ranching in the West without a corresponding benefit to the sage grouse.