Senate drops controversial farm bill amendments

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Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Ranking Member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., narrowed the number of amendments to the 2012 Farm Bill passed last week from more than 200 to 73.

The “Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012,” sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was dropped from consideration during the Farm Bill debate.

Also dropped from the Senate version of the bill was an amendment to ban packer ownership of animals. Both amendments were strongly opposed by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC.)

An amendment to end all commodity checkoff programs and one related to labeling food containing genetically engineered ingredients failed overwhelmingly. An amendment to defund the foreign market development (FMD) program and the market access program (MAP), which help facilitate the sale of U.S. pork in international markets, also was defeated.

“NPPC is pleased that the Senate approved a 2012 Farm Bill that provides an adequate safety net for farmers; includes important pork industry research, export-promotion and insurance programs; and leaves out provisions detrimental to pork producers,” according to a statement from the group.

NPPC also urged its members to contact their representatives to ensure the House passes a similar farm bill.

Lawmakers approved an amendment sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and John Kerry, D-Mass., that repeals the USDA’s catfish inspection program. Repeal of the 2008 catfish legislation is important to U.S. exporters, including food and agriculture groups such as NPPC, because the United States is vulnerable to a challenge of dual inspection of catfish at the World Trade Organization (WTO.)

Vietnam, a major catfish exporter and one of the countries in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, strongly objected to the inspection regulations. Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes estimates that Vietnam could be an important market for the U.S. pork industry pending the outcome of the TPP talks.



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