The FY ’12 agriculture appropriations bill passed by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture would not allow any funds to be made available to “write, prepare, develop or publish” a final rule or an interim final rule regarding USDA’s proposed Grain Inspection and Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule on livestock and poultry marketing. In essence, the bill would stop any work on the proposed rule during fiscal year 2012, which begins Oct. 1. This action follows the congressional letter, signed by 147 congressmen, that was sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asking him to withdraw the proposed rule and issue a new proposed rule once USDA completes its economic analysis. R-CALF USA, a strong supporter of the proposed rule, stated: “Meat packers have coerced Congress into derailing a USDA rulemaking that would, for the first time, properly implement the 90-year-old Packers and Stockyards Act.”

Agricultural Appropriations Bill Passes Subcommittee – The House Appropriations Subcommittee for Agriculture passed its fiscal year 2012 agriculture appropriations bill, which makes cuts in international food aid, Food and Drug Administration and other USDA programs. The bill totals $17.2 billion in discretionary spending, which is $2.6 billion below last year’s levels and over $5 billion below the administration’s request for these programs. This represents a 13.4% cut compared to FY 2011. Key areas in the bill include:

• Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program: $5.9 billion compared to $6.7 billion last year – a 12.4% cut.

• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps): $90 billion, which is $2 billion less than the administration’s request.

• Agriculture Research: $2.2 billion – reduced by over 13% ($354 million).

• Animal and Plant Health: $790 million – $73 million below last year.

• Conservation Programs: $770 million – a $99 million cut from last year.

• Rural Development: $2.1 billion – a cut of $338 million.

• International Trade: The PL-480 Food for Peace Title II program is cut $643 million.

• Food and Drug Administration: $973 million – $35 million less than last year.

Livestock Marketing Fairness Act – Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jon Tester (D-MT) have introduced “The Livestock Marketing Fairness Act” that would target “anti-competitive forward marketing contracts.” According to Senator Enzi, “Some bad actors have been known to stack the deck in sale barns and this bill protects market competition by prohibiting packers from using prices in livestock contracts that they directly influence.” According to the sponsors the bill would:

• Require marketing agreements to have a firm base price derived from an external source. This guarantees that local contract prices are not subject to manipulation by packer-owned herds.

• Calls for future contracts for livestock (cattle, hogs, lambs) to be traded in public markets where buyers and sellers can witness bids and make their own offers. This openness ensures market competition through multiple offers.

• Exempts producer-owned cooperatives, packers with low volumes, and packers who own only one processing plant.

• Guarantees that trading is done in quantities that provide market access for both small and large livestock producers.

Similar legislation was introduced in the previous Congress.

Agriculture Urges Approval of FTAs – Agriculture’s message to Congress and the Obama administration is to approve the pending free trade agreements (FTA) with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. The importance of these FTAs to American agriculture was emphasized at a Capitol Hill press conference hosted by the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association and the National Pork Producers Council. NPPC said, “We need to implement these FTAs now because while these deals have languished for more than three years, our competitors have negotiated their own trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, and the United States has lost market share in those countries.” The American Farm Bureau estimates the three FTAs would increase U.S. farm exports by $2.5 billion annually.

Medium-Rare Pork – USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a new guideline that pork can be consumed safely when cooked to an internal temperature of 145° F, followed by a three-minute rest time. The guideline is 15° F lower than previously recommended. FSIS’ recommendation applies only to pork whole-muscle cuts, such as chops, loins and roasts. Ground pork should be cooked to 160° F and checked with a digital meat thermometer, FSIS says.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.