The U.S. Senate passed its Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act of 2007 (H.R. 2419) today by a vote of 79 to 14. 
 
Like the version passed by the House of Representatives earlier this summer, the Senate bill contains some improvements for cattlemen such as provisions allowing for interstate shipment of state-inspected meat.  NCBA staunchly supported this measure as a way for state-regulated businesses to compete in interstate commerce and enhance opportunities for cattle producers and small local businesses to market branded beef products.
 
The Senate Farm Bill also contains the House language making modest improvements to the country-of-origin labeling law (COOL) scheduled to become mandatory in September 2008. 
 
But for cattlemen, the Senate package is far from perfect.  Most notably, a ban on packer ownership of cattle would jeopardize many of the marketing alliances cattlemen have worked hard to build. 
 
“NCBA policy supports a competitive, free-enterprise market,” says NCBA’s Vice President of Government Affairs Jay Truitt.  “It is unfortunate that the Senate chose to include legislative language that limits cattlemen’s ability to market their cattle in ways that provide the best return on their investment.”
 
As the Farm Bill moves to conference, NCBA will urge the committee to strip out the packer ban language.
 
“This provision will hurt consumers, stifle the entrepreneurial spirit of cattle producers and put the government in charge of a rancher’s business decisions,” says Truitt. 
 
NCBA will also urge conferees to fix the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) cap and payment limitations for conservation that exist in the House Farm Bill.  This language makes many ranchers ineligible for Farm Bill conservation programs. 
 
“The goals of voluntary conservation programs are compromised when artificial caps and limits are applied,” says Truitt. “Cattlemen will urge the conference committee to exempt cost-share programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) from the AGI caps and payment limitations.”
 
In good news for cattle producers, many harmful amendments aimed at manipulating the business environment for cattle producers were either defeated or withdrawn from consideration. 
 
“We were fortunate to have a lot of our cattle producer-members weigh in on these issues with their Senators, and it paid off,” says Truitt.  “We’ve cleared some hurdles this week, but we still have a great deal of work to do as the bill moves through conference.”