Washington, DC (May 12, 1008) - The U.S. Cattlemen's Association (USCA) said today that while the House and Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee voted down key provisions that included meaningful competition reform, language remains intact that supports the full implementation of mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) and interstate meat commerce by state-inspected processing plants.
"While it is disappointing that conferees chose to oppose limiting meat packers' ability to own cattle prior to harvest, there are some significant victories for cattle producers in the conference report," said Jon Wooster, USCA President, San Lucas, Calif. "The current political climate in Washington, DC is not conducive to certain reforms within the cattle market structure. That situation is further exacerbated with this being an election year. Despite this, the legislation has some very positive aspects for producers and it is important to recognize those."
"The latest version of the farm bill is palatable to most segments of the industry," continued Wooster. "USCA appreciates the work of the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) along with Representative Leonard Boswell (D-IA) for their efforts in advancing meaningful competition reform. It was disappointing that more conferees did not follow their lead. USCA also appreciates House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson's work to find consensus on COOL as it remained intact during the conference process."
"Also retained was language that will enhance interstate shipment of state-inspected meat," noted Wooster. "USCA worked diligently to protect these aspects of the bill and we will continue to monitor the process until the legislation is passed and signed into law."
On Thursday, May 8 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said President Bush will veto the bill if it is passed by both chambers of Congress. Schafer said the bill is "wasteful and irresponsible and incompatible with the realities of the U.S. and the world's economies" and said his message from the President "is very clear" regarding his intent to veto.
If President Bush vetoes the bill, policy will revert back to the 1949 permanent law and the Department of Agriculture would have to initiate a rule-making process to implement the law, which could take months. It is likely that Congress would act to extend the 2002 Farm Bill for one year in that event.
"Secretary Schafer has made clear the President's intent to veto the bill," said Wooster. "It is vital that we remain engaged and see this process through. Now is the time for both cattle producers and consumers to make calls in support of the Farm Bill. All of America will benefit from this Farm Bill, and we must work to ensure this bill receives the votes needed to override a veto.”