National Farmers Union (NFU) joined a diverse coalition representing family farmers, ranchers, consumers and rural affairs in submitting testimony urging Congress to reject the inclusion of any policy riders in the FY2016 Agriculture Appropriations bill that would weaken or rescind Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) or limit the rulemaking authority of the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Agency (GIPSA).
“Opponents of basic rights for producers and consumers have repeatedly chosen the appropriations process as a mechanism to preempt the World Trade Organization (WTO) process on COOL and to limit the agriculture secretary’s authority to address anti-competitive market concerns,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “NFU urges Congress to reject policy riders that would undermine the effectiveness of COOL and GIPSA.”
The testimony was submitted late last week to the Subcommittee of Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, and Related Agencies on potential COOL and GIPSA policy riders. The testimony notes that opponents of COOL are urging the appropriators to include language that would rescind COOL in the event of an adverse WTO ruling.
“It is still premature to unconditionally surrender to Canada and Mexico’s threats of tariff retaliation,” notes the testimony. “Congress should not prejudge the outcome of the dispute and allow the WTO process to come to its conclusion before revisiting COOL.”
The testimony also notes that the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 is the nation’s primary statute providing basic protections for livestock and poultry growers against fraudulent, deceptive, and retaliatory trade practices by meatpackers and poultry companies. The 2008 Farm Bill required the U.S. Department of Agriculture to write regulations under the Packers and Stockyards Act to provide for these basic protections.
“Any provision gutting the Packers and Stockyard Act through the so-called GIPSA rider is unconscionable to America’s family farmers and ranchers,” said Johnson. “It would deny farmers protection from retaliation when they use their First Amendment rights to speak with congressional representatives, deny them the right to a jury trial, and deny them the right to request information on how their pay is calculated.”