NFU Says Agriculture's Battle Continues in Nation's CapitolTue, 17 Mar 2015 18:24:56 CDT
The fight over the Farm Bill is not over and that's just one of many fights agriculture will have coming up in Congress. At the National Farmers Union annual convention earlier this week in Wichita, Kansas. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said there are lawmakers that are wanting to cut more spending from agricultural programs. Radio Oklahoma Network's Ron Hays caught up with NFU's lead lobbyist Chandler Goule this week. Click or tap on the LISTENBAR below to listen to their full conversation.
Goule said he looks for agriculture to fight even harder to keep funding in the Farm Bill, than we had to get the Farm Bill. He said there are indications the budget committee is going to request $20 billion in additional cuts from the Farm Bill. He said there are a limited number of places where that money can come from such as crop insurance, nutrition programs, commodities, conservation and research.
"The Farm Bill saved $23 billion dollars when it passed, so to come and cut another $23 billion out of it, is simply going to be very devastating to Rural America," Goule said.
The federal agriculture budget makes up two percent of the entire budget for the U.S. government. Instead of making additional cuts, Goule said it would be more beneficial for the U.S. to stop writing bad trade agreements that have put the nation at a $505-billion trade deficit.
"If we would write trade agreements that put us in a trade surplus that would also help the economy and help the nation's overall national deficit and we wouldn't have to go back to our farm safety nets and to crop insurance and the premiums on crop insurance that make it affordable for family farmers," Goule said. "Cutting $20 billion out of this Farm Bill could paralyze some of the programs."
NFU also continues to monitor reforms to the national beef checkoff program. A year ago, NFU pulled out of the negotiations through the Beef Checkoff Working Group. On Friday, seven organizations of the eight organizations signed the Memorandum of Understanding. Goule said called the MOU a drastic step backwards. He said NFU and US Cattlemen's Association wanted to get lobbyist organizations out of the checkoff business, as the National Cattlemen's Beef Association receives 93% to 95% of the checkoff dollars. Goule said over ten years that's a half billion dollars from the checkoff. He said NCBA has lobbied against Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the Farm Bill.
"Until we get lobbying industries, lobbying organizations, out of the checkoff business, I feel that we're going to continue to have problems with the beef checkoff," Goule said.
In order to increase the assessment from $1 to $2 per head will require Congress to open the 1985 Beef Promotion Act. Goule said Congress has so many fights on their hands with immigration reform, tax reform, appropriations among others, so he thinks Congress will push making changes to the beef checkoff to the back burner, maybe until the next Farm Bill.
The head of the Environmental Protection Agency also spoke at the NFU convention. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy addressed the proposed changes to the Clean Water Act. Goule was pleased she admitted to EPA's mistakes in calling it 'Waters of the US' and she admitted that many of the definitions such as neighboring, tributary or ditch were too vague and that's the reason they withdrew part of the rule. He was also pleased to hear McCarthy share that many of the agricultural exemptions would be left in place.
"I do feel we have been heard and hopefully they have made those changes so that this will work for family farmers and ranchers," Goule said.
Goule said NFU is unable to comment on whether they will support the changes until they see the finalized rule, but he felt agriculture's concerns have been taken into consideration. There are indications that McCarthy will be moving forward quickly. Goule agreed that changes to the Clean Water Act are on an expedited timeline and he anticipates the public will get to see and comment on the final rule in the next four to six weeks.
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