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Bill includes provision preventing second beef checkoff

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Dec. 16 signed the omnibus appropriations bill, guaranteeing funding to run most of the government through Sept. 30. But the bill also contains policy riders that will prevent Agriculture Secretary Tom Vils...

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Dec. 16 signed the omnibus appropriations bill, guaranteeing funding to run most of the government through Sept. 30. But the bill also contains policy riders that will prevent Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack from proceeding with a second beef checkoff.

Vilsack said on Dec. 18 he had given up on the idea of a second checkoff. Vilsack noted he had pursued the idea because the farm groups could not come to an agreement on how to change the checkoff, so Congress would agree to an increase in the $1 fee per animal that producers now pay into the promotion and research fund.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which is involved in the management of the current checkoff, opposed the second checkoff, while the National Farmers Union and the U.S. Cattlemen's Association supported it.

Obama, who noted his opposition to some sections of the omnibus bill -- including a change to the Dodd-Frank financial services reform law -- signed the omnibus without ceremony.

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Sean Donovan noted in a statement that Obama had said the legislation is a compromise and no one got everything they wanted.

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"For the first time since the financial crisis, this agreement marks two consecutive stable years of funding for agencies, allowing them to adapt to changing needs, while also giving agencies the certainty that will allow them to plan and execute their budgets to serve the American people," Donovan added.

Donovan said the bill "was shortsighted to provide less than full-year funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Short-term continuing resolution funding measures are disruptive, create uncertainty and impede efficient resource planning and execution. The administration strongly believes DHS should be fully funded in the new year, without delay.

"And the cuts to the Internal Revenue Service will severely hurt taxpayer service and deprive the federal government of billions of dollars in revenue collection," he concluded.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said the agreement "keeps millions of Americans on the job by preventing shutdown of the federal government and ending government on autopilot."

Of the policy riders, Mikulski added, "We were able to get rid of the vast majority of poison-pill riders that were in the House bill. Every single rider that we faced -- 98 of them that came over from the House -- were hard fights, and virtually all were eliminated.

"We were able to remove six horrible Wall Street riders from the final funding bill. We weren't able to negotiate the last one away, but the final bill lessens its impact by increasing funding for enforcement of the remaining consumer financial protections," Mikulski said. "These were hard fights. We won most, lost a few, but fought them all."

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