Reaction to Farm Bill mixed among commodity groups

After three years of intensive work, the 2014 Farm Bill, officially known as the 2014 Agriculture Act, was signed into law Friday by President Barack Obama at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich.

On the plus side, it offered commodity groups a five year program versus the one year stop gap measures which had been passed by Congress the last three years.

A negative are stricter provisions in the Country of Origin labeling requirement.

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation of West Des Moines said the bill was not perfect, but that the organization supported the final result.

“We knew that the strength and reliability of our nation’s food production means farmers have to be able to make plans,” said IFBF President Craig Hill. “Our farmers faced devastating drought one year, and floods the next. So, for our farmers, the backbone of the bill lies in maintaining the strength of the crop insurance program; with crop insurance, farmers can invest in their own risk management by purchasing insurance policies so they are protected in difficult times. That means we can keep doing what we do best: grow reliable, safe food choices for consumers.”

Despite the IFBF support, two groups the National Cattlemen’s Association and the National Pork Producers Council – opposed the bill because it failed to eliminate Country of Origin Labeling provisions among other issues. Those provisions, they said would have a negative effect on trade with both Canada and Mexico, and those countries will ask the World Trade Organization to rule they are discriminatory.

Dave Warner of the National Pork Producers Council in Washington, said Friday his organization believes Canada and Mexico will retaliate against U.S. producers and other industries due to new restrictions in the Country of Origin Labeling provision.

Canada and Mexico view current provisions in Country of Origin labeling as being discriminatory toward their hogs, Warner said.

“Specifically, it makes it difficult for an American hog finisher to purchase feeder from Canada,” Warner said. “Under the 2008 law, the finisher could co-mingle American and Canadian hogs when sending them to the packing plant, and the label of origin would say ‘Product of USA and Canada.’

The new law requires an American producer to segregate the hogs when shipping to the packing plant and label them a “Product of Canada.”

Expect Candadians to retaliate and not purchase American apples, beef, furniture and maple syrup.

A worse case scenario is that this is going to hurt U.S. exports and could result in job losses, Warner said.

Farm exports represented almost 1 million U.S. jobs in 2012, the White House said, citing Agriculture Department statistics.

Mandatory country-of-origin meat labeling (COOL) imposes on the U.S. pork industry costs of tracking hogs and pork from farm to retail grocery store.

President Bush signed into law May 13, 2002, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, more commonly known as the 2002 Farm Bill, which included as one of its many provisions mandatory country-of-origin labeling for beef, lamb, pork, fish, perishable agricultural commodities and peanuts. USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) is responsible for regulating and enforcing the mandatory country-of-origin labeling regime. Mandatory COOL was championed by populist farm activist groups and their supporters in Congress as a means of reducing the flow of livestock and food products into the United States, according to the National Pork Producers.

A call requesting comment to the National Cattleman’s Organization was not returned as of press time.