The Senate could vote on its version of the Farm Bill this week. Last Friday, Democrats and Republicans agreed to limit the number of amendments that each party could offer to the bill to 20 each. Previously, nearly 300 amendments had been submitted for consideration as of mid-November, including several that were unrelated to farm policy.
However, among the 40 now allotted, one is expected to be a “manager’s” amendment, which includes nearly 90 proposals. It was unclear as of last week what is in the “manager’s” amendment, according to the National Pork Producers Council.
Among the amendments that NPPC is working to keep out of the eventual farm bill, include ones that would:
- Ban the use of formula pricing for hogs. Under the amendment, any sales agreement, including a marketing contract, that requires arrangements for hog delivery more than seven days out would require that a contract be “bid in an open, public manner,” have a fixed dollar amount, not be based on a formula price (other than a price tied to a futures market) and be limited to less than 30-hog increments.
- Establish an Office of Special Counsel to investigate livestock-competition issues.
- Create an Agriculture Competition Task Force with powers to investigate agricultural-competition issues and to develop guidelines governing competition.
- Require parties to prove that a merger, acquisition or “other transaction” would not “substantially lessen competition” or “tend to create a monopoly in one or more geographic markets.”
- Prohibit packers from paying premiums for value-added livestock, such as “free-range,” by eliminating “business justification” as a defense against charges of unfair competition.
- Allow lawsuits over “unfair” competition in which the plaintiff would not be required to show that he or she suffered a competitive injury.
Once the Senate approves its Farm Bill, Senate committee members will need to meet with House members to reconcile differences between the two farm bill version and reach a compromise bill. That's expected to occur in mid-January.
The Senate Agriculture Committee's farm bill proposal, reached in late October, already includes a ban on packers owning hogs and prohibits marketing contracts.
NPPC points out that the Senate committee's version does have some positive provisions, including fixes to the Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling law, funds for swine genome research and authorization for a national trichinae certification program. NPPC supports the House version of the farm bill. It includes increased investments in renewable energy, nutrition and conservation programs, as well as much-needed changes to the Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling law
Source: National Pork Producers Council