Calling it good for agriculture, the National Pork Producers Council is urging the U.S. House of Representatives to quickly pass the 2007 Farm Bill the House Agriculture Committee approved on Thursday. The legislation, which is expected to be considered by the full House before Congress starts its August recess, makes moderate reforms in U.S. farm policy yet maintains a safety net for farmers and makes expanded investments in conservation, nutrition and renewable energy programs.

NPPC officials praised Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)and Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) for pulling together disparate interests to craft a bipartisan bill.

Of particular interest to pork producers, the legislation makes much-needed fixes to the Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling law, which was approved as part of the 2002 Farm Bill and is set to take effect Sept. 30, 2008. Among the changes, the bill would:

Ease recordkeeping to verify an animal’s country of origin by allowing existing records, such as normal business records, animal-health papers and import or customs documents, to be used.

  • Allow meat from animals born in another country but raised and slaughtered in the United States, such as Canadian feeder pigs, to be labeled products of the United Statesand the other country. The law allows a “U.S. origin” product label only for meat derived from animals “born, raised and slaughtered” in the United States.
  • Allow processed products to be labeled with a list of countries from which they were derived.

A provision that would have banned arbitration clauses in contracts between producers and packers was modified to require the USDA Secretary to establish standards of fairness for arbitration clauses, using the American Association of Arbitration bestpractices guidelines.

Also included in the legislation are provisions to reauthorize the pseudorabies eradication program and to increase investments in conservation programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Additionally, the EQIP application process would be streamlined and the types of activities for which producers could receive incentive payments would be expanded.

The committee also approved a Sense of Congress resolution that livestock manure not be deemed a hazardous substance under federal Superfund laws and increased funding for USDA’s Market Access Program to promote exports of U.S. agricultural products.

“Overall, the bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee is good for pork producers,” says NPPC Past President Joy Philippi, a producer from Bruning, Neb. “We want a Farm Bill that maintains and strengthens the pork industry’s competitiveness in the global marketplace and that doesn’t include any mischief, and Peterson and Goodlatte accomplished those goals.”

 Source: National Pork Producers Council