In late night negotiations Tuesday, appropriators have agreed on a continuing resolution funding package that includes several provisions important to agricultural.
In an explanatory statement directing the congressional directives, the agreement said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is directed not to implement a “second duplicative beef checkoff program” citing that “an overwhelming majority of cattle producers do not support paying assessments into two separate beef checkoff programs operating simultaneously.”
In a letter to House and Senate leaders, the National Farmers Union and United States Cattlemen’s Assn. (USCA) lamented the rider inclusion. Vilsack had proposed the secondary checkoff when the industry was unable to come to an agreement on how to improve the current program. The solicitation on how a secondary checkoff could be set had its public comment period close Dec. 10.
The NFU left the checkoff negotiations, however, they have been loudly critical of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. and the many benefits NCBA presently receives under the current beef checkoff.
Congress also directs the ag secretary, in consultation with the U.S. Trade Representative, to submit by or before May 1, 2015 a report with recommendations for any changes in federal law on how to fix the establishment and implementation of a country of origin labeling program based on the latest findings from the World Trade Organization ruling. The USTR formally announced it would appeal the decision earlier this month.
“NFU and USCA are very concerned that the report language included on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) could be used as an opportunity to stop the appeals process at the World Trade Organization or re-open the legislation that mandated COOL, both of which are unacceptable,” noted the letter. “Congress should not intervene in the WTO process.”
It was hoped that a rider could also be included to limit EPA's ability to move forward on its Waters of the U.S. rule. That however was not included.
The omnibus spending legislation is expected to come up for a vote in both Houses on Thursday.