As noted in last week’s paper, the Senate passed its version of the 2018 Farm Bill late on June 28. A number of amendments important to cattle producers were included, although in order to get a full “thumbs up,” they will require some tweaking when the House and Senate conferees meet to resolve differences in their respective bills.
Both the House and Senate bills provide for the creation of a national foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank. However, it is only funded in the House version, and provides $150 million for just one year.
Conservation issues are also being closely watched with proposed changes to the number of acres eligible for enrollment in Conservation Reserve Programs and payment schedules. There are also provisions in the conservation title that would allow flexibility in grazing rules in areas affected by drought, flooding, fire or other natural disasters.
Allison Rivera, Executive Director, Government Affairs, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), told WLJ her organization prefers the House version.
Livestock producers and truck drivers who are charged with safely hauling animals have been watching amendments related to electronic logging devices (ELDs) for commercial haulers. Although livestock haulers are exempt from the regulations until Sept. 30, NCBA and others have been seeking continued exemptions or more flexibility for hauling live animals.
Rivera explained that legislation offered to allow a 150-air-mile exemption for ag commodity haulers had 24 bipartisan cosponsors but was not allowed onto the Senate floor or into any managers’ amendment packages. She said NCBA pushed for this amendment and will now look to have it included in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill.
Truckers hauling agricultural commodities were required to start using ELDs on June 18; livestock haulers have until Sept. 30 under the current rules.
One piece that failed to gain traction, as reported last week, was the Lee-Booker Amendment presented by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). That measure would have undermined commodity checkoff programs. Rivera told WLJ this is an amendment that the organization spends the most time fighting. “We fought hard against that one and were pleased to see it fail, she said.
The House and Senate could begin conference discussions the week of July 9 when lawmakers return from the July 4 break. Rivera noted that NCBA has already started early discussions on how to move forward since the bills have major differences. — Rae Price, WLJ editor