Producer groups representing the beef, pork, milk, sheep, poultry and egg industries applauded passage of the $1.3 trillion spending bill signed into law Friday.
Several provisions in the bill, which funds government through FY 2018, address threats to those industries that producer groups have been working to eliminate.
The bill includes several provisions that represent major victories for U.S. cattle producers, Kevin Kester, president of National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in a statement to the press.
“First, we were able to kill the notion that our farms and ranches will be regulated like a toxic Superfund site under the CERCLA law,” he said.
The bill restores a 2008 rule by EPA exempting agriculture from emissions reporting under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).
That rule was rejected by a federal Circuit Court of Appeals last year, and as many as 200,000 farmers were facing a May 1 deadline for reporting emissions.
“This is fantastic news for hog farmers,” Jim Heimerl, president of the National Pork Producers Council, said in a press release.
The appeals court ruling would have forced livestock farmers to “guesstimate” and report the emissions from manure on their farms and subject them to citizen lawsuits from activist groups, he said.
The reporting was unnecessary, impractical and unwanted by federal agencies and emergency response authorities, he said.
Restoring the exemption is one of the most visible and essential demonstrations of support for U.S. farmers, the National Turkey Federation, National Chicken Council, U.S. Poultry and Egg Association and United Egg Producers said in a joint statement.
“Our deep appreciation for this action and bi-partisan cooperation cannot be overstated,” they said.
The bill also includes another delay for livestock haulers for complying with the electronic logging device mandate. The bill pushes the deadline back to Sept. 30, giving the Department of Transportation time to educate livestock haulers on ELDs and industry time to find a solution to the hours of service rules that limit time behind the wheel, the groups said.
Dairy and sheep producers also praised those provisions and a few specific to their industry.
National Milk Producer Federation claimed a major victory in language that directs FDA to enforce labeling standards affecting plant-based products that imitate dairy, such as soy milk.
“It’s high time that we end blatant disregard for federal labeling standards by marketers of nutritionally inferior imitation dairy products,” Jim Mulhern, NMPF president and CEO, said.
Important provisions for the sheep industry include retention of language directing the Department of Interior and U.S. Forest Service to rely on USDA for the best science on pathogen transmission and risk of contact regarding bighorn sheep before making decisions that impact domestic sheep grazing.
The bill also prevents the termination or closure of research stations, including the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho, and increases appropriations for rangeland research, the American Sheep Industry Association stated.
The American Farm Bureau Federation is also pleased with an amendment to the cooperative tax deduction — Section 199A — to restore balance to commodity markets and re-establish fairness between cooperative and non-cooperative farmers.
It also supports the bill’s inclusion of pilot programs related to agricultural risk-coverage payments and broadband service; critical forest management reform regarding wildfire suppression; and funding for a wide array of federal programs within USDA, FDA and other agencies.
The organization is disappointed, however, in the lack of language that would have allowed the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the 2017 Waters of the U.S. rule to move forward with their efforts to develop a new WOTUS rule.