WITH presidential elections coming up soon, the window of time for Congress to approve crucial bills is already narrowing.
Reauthorization deadlines are approaching for both the U.S. Grain Standards Act and the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act. Two different House agriculture subcommittees held a hearing on each, with the hopes of setting the stage for passage before the laws expire in September.
Witnesses at both hearings made it clear that it's important to address reauthorization ahead of expiration. Legislation still needs to be finalized and work its way through the chambers.
During a hearing last Wednesday, Rep. Rick Crawford (R., Ark.), chairman of the House agriculture subcommittee on general farm commodities and risk management, said legislative drafts for an updated Grain Standards Act are nearly completed, and a legislative proposal for markup is expected soon.
Later in the day, the House livestock and foreign agriculture subcommittee heard from different commodity groups and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) on what works and what doesn't within the current system.
Subcommittee chairman Rep. David Rouzer (R., N.C.) said it is vital to have industry groups work together to find the best solution to address challenges facing stakeholders.
"As the committee works on reauthorizing the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act, it is the goal and intent of our committee to bring all parties together and strike a balance that promotes fairness, transparency and stability in the market," Rouzer said.
Pork producer James Heimerl testified that the mandatory price reporting (MPR) system for hogs and pork is "one of — if not the singularly — most important service the U.S. government provides to the U.S. industry."
Ed Greiman, cow/calf and feedlot operator and chairman of the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. cattle marketing and international trade committee, testified that MPR doesn't necessarily earn him more money, but it does give him open access to information and free trade.
A consistent theme from witnesses was a desire for MPR to be made an essential function of government so the reports will continue in the event of another government shutdown. (In the last government shutdown, no market price data were available to determine values for livestock.)
Pork producers did ask for some substantive changes to the current system, including adding a purchase category for negotiated formula sales and purchases and adding a provision to include late-day purchases in the subsequent day's purchased swine reports.
Mark Dopp, senior vice president and general counsel for NAMI, said meat industry members are working closely with the livestock producer community to come to a workable consensus and move the legislation forward "free of controversy."
During questioning, Dopp said NAMI has no objections to some of the ideas advanced by commodity groups, but he noted that the nuances and impacts of some proposals on the table also need to be better understood.
Other big-ticket reauthorization bills up for debate this year include the Child Nutrition Act and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. In order to provide certainty to the industry, Congress will need to continue to vet proposals and secure approvals well in advance of the deadlines.