Some major farm groups are offering their thoughts, good and bad, on the omnibus legislation just passed by Congress. American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman found plenty to like in the measures, but had some misgivings on some parts.
“America’s farm and ranch families will benefit greatly from the strong, bipartisan congressional passage of important tax relief, funding and policy provisions. The legislation provides needed changes to tax policy, funding for programs important to farmers, ranchers and rural communities, and actions related to country-of-origin labeling to prevent retaliation against U.S. agricultural products. We look forward to the president’s approval of this legislation.
“While we know there were tough decisions made to secure enough votes for this very important package, we will continue pushing for action on those items that Congress did not include. We need national policy on GMO labeling that is based on science and does not allow a patchwork of confusion that would be created by state and local laws. We will also continue to work with Congress to send the Environmental Protection Agency’s onerous Waters of the U.S. rule back to the drawing board. Those two items are big pieces of unfinished business that America’s farmers and ranchers need as they work to produce food and fiber for our nation.”
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson had similar mixed feelings on the bill, happy about the parts that funded the government and extended important tax credits, but disappointed in some parts left off.
“The passage of these two bills provides a level of certainty not achieved in the last several years,” said Johnson. “While stability is important and the number of riders was minimized, valuable programs such as Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), a popular provision for both producers and consumers, were wiped off the books as part of this backroom deal.”
Johnson noted that NFU called on Congress to pass an omnibus free of legislative riders. “Fortunately, basic protections for farmers under the Packers and Stockyard Act, biotech labeling, important environmental regulations and other provisions were not subject to hasty and irresponsible change through misuse of the spending package,” said Johnson. “Increases in spending levels in some program areas were also an important step forward, but reductions in other programs was a disappointing step back.”
“We appreciate the increase in funding for a number of important areas including direct farm loans, the Food Safety Outreach Program, and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE),” said Johnson. “Likewise, we are thankful for stable funding in areas such as the Rural Energy for America program and Value-Added Producer Grants. We are, however, disappointed in cuts to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and lack of additional discretionary funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Accounts.”
NFU also expressed its disappointment that the biofuel credits weren’t set up for a longer term.
“Farmers need tax certainty and this package in part provides that,” said Johnson. “At the same time, our members also recognize that renewable sources of energy provide both an economic opportunity and a means to fight climate change, which has begun to impact their operations. Unfortunately, Congress chose to only extend these important renewable credits for a short time, which provides uncertainty for those producers committed to tackling climate change.”