Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Wednesday 01/22/14

Farm Bill Notes: Groups Back COOL as it Stands

Lawmakers will return from their MLK break early next week as the farm bill that was supposed to be settled before Thanksgiving turkey now starts to encroach upon Valentine's Day. Perhaps House Ag Chairman Frank Lucas and Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow could stem the chances of drifting past Valentine's Day with a little karaoke. I recommend the Elton John-Kiki Dee duet, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart."

Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said Wednesday he has heard very little from principal negotiators over issues such as dairy reform, COOL or payment limits. Conference talks haven't progressed enough for conferees to update groups such as National Farmers Union on any agreement or framework to wrap up conference talks.

NFU pays close attention to dairy policy. As of Wednesday, Johnson said he had not heard of any eventual agreement in dairy policy.

"I'm not aware of any resolution to the dairy situation," Johnson said to DTN.

Johnson noted that the easiest way to determine if dairy policy has been settled is to see if Sen. Pat Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, is willing to go along with the changes. If Leahy isn't happy, then dairy policy isn't settled. Leahy's most recent comments on dairy were Monday to Vermont Public Radio in which the senator said he and Vermont dairy farmers disagree with House Speaker John Boehner's assertions that a voluntary supply program amounts to "Soviet-style" dairy policies.

Backing COOL as it Stands

Along with that, 98 other organizations also wrote farm-bill conferees on Wednesday urging lawmakers not to make any changes to country-of-origin labeling. The groups described themselves as "farm, ranch, consumer, rural, labor and faith-based" advocates for COOL. That groups cited that a "purported amendment to COOL would significantly erode the quality of information disclosed to consumers while maintaining the current cost of segregating livestock."

According to the letter, the most recent proposal would eliminate the language describing where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. In its place would either be a "product of USA" or "product of North America" label.

"This North American or NAFTA-meat label is entirely unacceptable and many COOL advocates would oppose a farm bill that contained this language," the letter stated. The letter concluded, "Any changes to country of origin labeling should occur in full view of the American public with ample debate and recorded votes."

http://www.consumerfed.org/…

National Farmers Union and some other backers of COOL weren't even part of that letter campaign. Yet, NFU has been a staunch supporter of country-of-origin labeling since the first debates on the topic. Johnson noted NFU has spent $250,000 in federal court defending USDA's latest rule on COOL. The group so far has won, which allowed the new rule to go into effect.

"We would just prefer they do nothing with COOL," Johnson said of the conferees.

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Posted at 4:33PM CST 01/22/14 by Chris Clayton
Comments (1)
John Phipps has a clear headed view of government dependency by farmers. See http://www.agweb.com/topproducer/article/perspective_spot_the_flawed_business_model_NAA_John_Phipps/
Posted by W Kuster at 6:29PM CST 01/22/14
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