Livestock groups weigh in on farm bill fate

Beef, pork and milk producers are hoping agriculture committee leaders will push a new farm bill through in the lame duck session.

Getting the farm bill passed before a new Congress takes its place in January is a top priority in farm country. Cattle and dairy groups are pretty confident that will happen in the lame duck session following the mid-term election, but pork producers aren’t as certain.

Weighing in favor of a farm bill yet this year is that Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, will be the chairman of the committee when the House flips to a Democratic majority.

He wants to get a farm bill done and doesn’t want to rewrite it when he becomes chairman, Colin Woodall, senior vice president of government affairs for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in the latest Beltway Beef podcast.

“That’s good news for everybody in agriculture, especially for us because he has been supportive of our FMD (foot and mouth disease) vaccine bank. So we’re optimistic we can get that done,” he said.

The chance of a farm bill being passed this year was good before the elections and is still good after the elections, Paul Bleiberg, vice president of government relations for National Milk producers Federation, said.

House and Senate agriculture committee leaders were intent on staff getting things ironed out between the September adjournment and now. That work is continuing, and NMPF has had good dialogues with both committees, he said.

“The sense I get is that urgency is still there … nobody really seems to want to start over,” he said.

There’s already been a lot of work done on the farm bill on the House and Senate floors, he said.

“When you couple in the challenges of the farm economy, I think there’s the feeling of … let’s get this put to bed,” he said.

Peterson has been extremely vocal about getting the farm bill done by the end of the year, and nothing happened in the elections that would veer from the course of getting it completed, he said.

Peterson did say he expects a farm bill, but National Pork Producers Council isn’t sure if there’ll be much action in the lame duck session, Dave Warner, NPPC director of communications, said.

“We’d like one this year as long as it includes our No. 1 ask – establishment of a foot and mouth disease vaccine bank,” he said.

In addition to the farm bill, NCBA’s Woodall said he thinks some other things will be completed yet this year.

“If history is any indicator, it will be a race to the finish line by the Republicans to get as much done as possible before they are returned to the minority” in the House, he said.

NCBA believes there’ll be a race to complete the appropriations bills, which include language addressing electronic logging devises for livestock haulers and fake meat, he said.

“Outside of that, I doubt anything else actually gets done between now and the end of 2018,” he said.

Unfortunately, the opportunity to modernize the Endangered Species Act has been lost. Legislation to do that didn’t make it out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and there won’t be an opportunity to move it in the lame duck session or with Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., as the incoming chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, he said.

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