Legislative Watch: Protect family farms, small livestock producers; hours-of-service proposal up for comments; tomato agreement reached; Asia-Pacific pact moves forward.

P. Scott Shearer, Vice President

August 23, 2019

4 Min Read
Farm machinery sign along a country road
Getty Images/iStockphoto

As USDA is planning to propose a new rule concerning Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, Congressional members are calling on the USDA to protect livestock and poultry farmers against unfair, deceptive practices and unreasonable preference by meatpackers and poultry companies.

In a letter to the USDA, the members outlined key priorities to help farmers compete with large corporations.

  • Retaliation: Protect producers from retaliation who publicly express concerns about meat and poultry industry contracting practices.

  • Competition: Clarify the Packers and Stockyards Act does not require a demonstration of harm to competition across the entire sector.

  • Marketing arrangements: Ensure that packers do not provide preferential marketing arrangements to “only a select group of large livestock feeders” while excluding smaller independent feeders.

  • Tournament system: Payment systems to growers should be objective and transparent. Growers should be rewarded for their management skills and not penalized for factors outside of their control.

The letter was signed by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Doug Jones (D-AL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and James McGovern (D-MA).

Organizations supporting the letter include Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform, Farm Aid, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Food & Water Watch, National Farmers Union and Organization for Competitive Markets.

Proposed changes to hours of service
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing changes to hours-of-service rules for commercial motor vehicle drivers.

According to DOT the proposed rule would give drivers greater flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time.

Proposed changes (from the FMCSA website):

  • Increase safety and flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by tying the break requirement to eight hours of driving time without an interruption for at least 30 minutes and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on duty, not driving status, rather than off duty.

  • Modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of not less than two consecutive hours, either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.

  • Allow one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three hours, that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift.

  • Modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted. 

  • Change to the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

There is a 45-day public comment period. Click here for the notice of proposed rule-making and information on how to submit public comments.

U.S.-Mexico reach tomato agreement
The United States and Mexico have reached an agreement regarding the importation of Mexican tomatoes. The U.S. Department of Commerce had threatened to impose anti-dumping duties on imported Mexican tomatoes because of a finding that Mexican tomatoes were being sold in the United States at less than fair price.

The agreement establishes minimum prices for different types of tomatoes exported to the United States. A border inspection process will be established at the border for up to 92% of the tomatoes crossing the border.

Mexico had threatened to increase border inspections of U.S. agricultural products unless the Department of Commerce backed off its proposal to inspect all Mexican tomatoes coming into the United States and imposing anti-dumping duties.

Mexico exports more than $2 billion of tomatoes to the United States.

Asia-Pacific trade agreement moving forward
The negotiations of the Asia-Pacific trade agreement or Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership are moving forward with a goal of completing the agreement by the middle of next year.

RCEP is comprised of 16 countries that represent 47.4% of the world’s population, 32.3% of the global economy and 29% of global trade. The countries are Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

The next meeting is scheduled for November.

Source: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

About the Author(s)

P. Scott Shearer

Vice President, Bockorny Group, Inc.

Scott Shearer is vice president of the Bockorny Group Inc., a leading bipartisan government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 years experience in government and corporate relations in state and national arenas, he is recognized as a leader in agricultural trade issues, having served as co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority. Scott was instrumental in the passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations and TPA. He is past chairman of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products and was a member of the USAID Food Security Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group, Scott served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries Inc., as well as USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (1993-96), serving as liaison for the Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA to Congress.

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