The House of Representatives cleared a pair of bills critical to the livestock sector Wednesday, Dec. 8, but the measures might face different fates in the Senate.
One bill is a single-page measure to offer a clean extension of livestock mandatory reporting (LMR); that bill passed 419-9. The other bill would create a contract library for the beef cattle industry similar to the catalog currently available in the pork industry; that legislation passed 411-13. Both bills were passed Wednesday on the suspension calendar, a House process allowing for expedited consideration of measures that must garner two-thirds majority votes to be passed.
LMR is currently authorized through mid-February as part of the continuing resolution passed last week to keep the government funded. The passage of the bill would put LMR on a different timeline, giving congressional and industry negotiators until the end of September to make any additional reforms that might be packaged with a longer-term extension, something House Ag Committee Chair David Scott, who sponsored the measure, said Wednesday on the House floor.
“I’m aware of some ongoing discussions and pending legislation that seeks to reform the cattle industry. And we’re going to deal with that; we are dealing with it over in the Senate Agriculture Committee and our House committee,” Scott, D-Ga., said. “However, we should not let negotiations of those reforms that we’re working with stand in the way of extending this vital program for one year.”
One possible reform on the table is a provision to create a contract library. House Ag member Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., introduced the bill to create the contract library in October. The concept carries with it broad support in the livestock industry and was one of the requested items stemming from a gathering of producer leaders earlier this year in Phoenix. In that meeting, the industry also emerged with unified support for expedited LMR reauthorization, expanded processing capacity, and called for an update from the Department of Justice on where things stand with an investigation into the nation’s meatpackers.
Since that meeting, a number of bills have been introduced to bring reform to the cattle industry including Johnson’s contract library legislation and a compromise bill in the Senate from Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore. That bill includes the contract library as well as other reforms to cattle price discovery and transparency, including mandated minimums of cash trade in different regions of the country.
Grassley on Tuesday said while he supports Johnson’s bill, “it’s got to be a part of a bigger movement.” Speaking to Agri-Pulse on Wednesday, Johnson disagreed, suggesting instead Congress should move ahead on areas where agreement currently stands.
“We know where the broad consensus is in this area,” he said. “I’m just concerned that we risk letting perfect be the enemy of the good. I think we want to focus on consensus solutions.”
What’s more, Johnson said some of the language in the Senate bill “did not come from the Phoenix meeting, and in that way they are not broadly held, consensus items embraced by the industry.”
The contract library bill carries the support of many of the nation’s beef groups, including the majority of the groups from the Phoenix meeting: National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union and the Livestock Marketing Association.
Only one group at the meeting ultimately decided not to support Johnson's legislation; R-CALF USA argues broader industry reforms are needed.
The House also cleared a handful of other bills critical to food and agriculture, including:
- The Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which passed 364-60. The legislation would address shipping issues including demurrage charges and the declining of U.S. exports to more quickly return empty containers to China;
- The Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act, which passed 393-33. The legislation would invest in research to stop the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer, elk, and moose;
- The National Forest Restoration and Remediation Act, which passed 385-42. The legislation would allow the Forest Service to keep the interest earned from settlement funds and reinvest the money into restoration efforts.