Livestock groups pleased with first draft of farm bill

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CAPITAL PRESS – CAROL RYAN DUMAS – Beef and pork producers say first-year funding to establish a vaccine bank for foot and mouth disease is a good first step. Dairy producers say the bill improves risk management but more needs to be done.

Livestock groups are hailing the House Agriculture Committee’s proposed farm bill, announced last week, but they also want more funding and an even stronger safety net for producers as the bill moves forward.

Beef, pork and dairy groups released statements following the debut of the first version of the next farm bill.

Beef and pork producers hailed language in the bill that would establish a vaccine bank for foot and mouth disease, saying it’s a good first step.

“Right now, we’re ill-prepared to deal with an FMD outbreak, which would be devastating for pork producers and other sectors of agriculture,” Kim Heimerl, president of the National Pork Producers Council, said.

The bill provides first-year mandatory funding of $150 million for the vaccine bank, $70 million in block grants to states for disease prevention and $30 million for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network for diagnostic support.

But the bill doesn’t guarantee funding for the bank during the rest of the five-year farm bill and reduces funding to $30 million annually for states and $20 million for the national laboratory.

Although the disease was last detected in the U.S. in 1929, it is endemic in many parts of the world.

Currently, the U.S. doesn’t have access to enough vaccine to handle more than a small, localized outbreak — leaving a huge gap in the nation’s prevention preparedness, Heimerl said.

Iowa State University economists estimate an FMD outbreak in the U.S. would cost the beef and pork industries $128 billion over 10 years if they were unable to combat the disease. It would also cost the corn and soybean industries $44 billion and $25 billion, respectively, over a decade and cost the U.S. economy more than 1.5 million jobs, NPPC reported.

“These costs can only be mitigated if the U.S. can mount a swift and robust response once FMD is detected,” Heimerl said.

NPPC is urging lawmakers to provide full annual funding for the effort over the course of the farm bill.

Kevin Kester, president of National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said the organization appreciates committee authorization of the FMD vaccine bank.

“However, we were hoping for full funding levels, which the bill does not provide in years two through five,” he said.

NCBA will continue fighting to secure that funding through all possible avenues, he said.

Both groups are also pleased the proposal includes funding for the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program, which help support U.S. exports.

NCBA is also pleased to see funding for agricultural research and bolstering the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

In the dairy arena, National Milk Producers Federation appreciates congressional improvements to the Margin Protection Program for Dairy enacted earlier this year, but said more improvements are needed.

The committee’s bill includes several changes NMPF has advocated for, particularly in improving coverage levels and providing greater flexibility for dairy producers in MPP. It also provides enhanced ability for producers to use other risk-management tools, Jim Mulhern, NMPF president and CEO, said.

“As the farm bill moves forward, we will continue to work with our allies in Congress on a bipartisan, bicameral basis to further strengthen the dairy safety net for producers of all sizes,” he said.

Posted By: Carol Ryan Dumas

Capital Press

Published on April 17, 2018 9:13AM

Photo: Erik Andres Reynoso