U.S. Capitol Building National Hog Farmer, Cheryl Day

Farm Bill text stalled

Legislative Watch: Farm bill text on hold, 11 countries sign revised TPP, Paraguay opens its door to U.S. pork and beef, Livestock & Poultry Organic rule withdrawn and DOT waiver extended on ELD mandate.

The release of the House Agriculture Committee’s farm bill text has been put on hold over objections by the committee Democrats because of major concerns regarding the proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Committee Democrats wrote Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) asking all negotiations cease until they have had the opportunity to see the analysis, cost estimates and text on the proposed changes to SNAP. Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Peterson have been negotiating on the entire farm bill text with the hopes of releasing it shortly. It is unclear at this time what happens next.

11 TPP countries sign trade agreement
The 11 remaining Trans-Pacific Partnership countries have signed a major free trade agreement to lower tariffs and streamline trade among the countries. The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership covers 500 million people from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. These 11 countries account for 13% of the world’s economy.

The United States will now find itself at a disadvantage in this region. A number of agricultural groups are concerned the United States will begin losing market share once the agreement goes into effect. Currently the Japanese tariff for U.S. beef is 38.5% while the tariff for Australian beef is 27% and will continue to decline as the tariff for the United States will remain the same. The United States currently has 70% of Japan’s potato imports. The tariff for all countries is currently 8.5% for potatoes and potato products. The tariff will drop to zero for CPTPP members and remain at 8.5% for the United States.

The U.S. Wheat Associates and National Association of Wheat Growers are concerned the United States will begin losing market share in Japan once CPTPP goes into effect. The tariff will drop over nine years from $150 to approximately $85 per ton for Australia and Canada while the tariff for imported U.S. wheat will remain at approximately $150 per ton.

President Trump pulled out of TPP January 2017.

Paraguay opens for U.S. pork and beef
Paraguay has agreed to allow for the importation of U.S. pork, beef, natural casings, poultry, eggs, live animals and genetics. Last year, Paraguay imported $3.7 million in pork and $6.5 million in beef primarily from Brazil.

USDA withdraws Livestock and Poultry Organic Rule
USDA is withdrawing the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule effective May 13. According to USDA, the rule would increase federal regulation of livestock and poultry for certified organic producers and handlers. Also, some policy and legal issues were identified after the rule was originally published. 

A USDA news release says, “Significant policy and legal issues were identified after the rule was published in January 2017. After careful review and two rounds of public comment, USDA has determined that the rule exceeds the department’s statutory authority and that the changes to the existing organic regulations could have a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program, including real costs for producers and consumers.”

The National Pork Producers Council thanks the USDA for listening to pork producers concerns and “recognizing the serious challenges it would have presented our producers.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association praise the decision saying, “Common sense scored an all-too-rare victory in Washington, DC, today. Not only did USDA not have the legal authority to implement animal-welfare regulations, but the rule would have also vilified conventionally raised livestock without recognizing our commitment to raising all cattle humanely, regardless of the marketing program they’re in.”

The Organic Trade Association says it would continue to pursue legal action. OTA filed suit in September 2017 because of USDA’s failure to implement the final rule. USDA says the current organic livestock and poultry regulations are working. Certified organic operations have increased domestically by 7% and globally by 11%, according to USDA.

DOT extends waiver on ELD mandate
The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration extended the waiver for the Electronic Logging Devise mandate for all transporters of agricultural commodities for an additional 90 days. The initial waiver that FMCSA issued in November 2017 was set to expire on March 18.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue says, “The ELD mandate imposes restrictions upon the agriculture industry that lack flexibility necessary for the unique realities of hauling agriculture commodities. If the agriculture industry had been forced to comply by the March 18 deadline, live agricultural commodities, including plants and animals, would have been at risk of perishing before they reached their destination. The 90-day extension is critical to give DOT additional time to issue guidance on hours-of-service and other ELD exemptions that are troubling for agriculture haulers.”

FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez says, “We continue to see strong compliance rates across the country that improve weekly, but we are mindful of the unique work our agriculture community does and will use the following 90 days to ensure we publish more helpful guidance that all operators will benefit from.”

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