By Arthur Uhl, TSCRA Legislative and Tax Committee chair
How Does the Farm Bill Affect Ranching? Very Little, We Hope
TSCRA volunteers work to keep ranching free from rules we don't need or want
Every 5 years or so Congress passes a new Farm Bill, a comprehensive piece of legislation that outlines the primary agriculture and food policies of the federal government. Like most omnibus bills coming out of Washington these days, the 2012 Farm Bill is set to include a lot of policy changes and a hefty price tag. The bulk of the cost associated with the Farm Bill is actually spent on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps.
The TSCRA Legislative and Tax Committee is responsible for monitoring the Farm Bill. We do this to make certain that important policies and programs remain intact and that the federal government doesn't add additional regulations to the cattle industry.
The Senate passed its version of the bill in late June. While the Senate version cost almost $1 trillion, it did not include a livestock title, a provision added in the 2008 Farm Bill that TSCRA is actively working to eliminate in the 2012 bill.
We saw in 2008 that adding a livestock title to the Farm Bill puts the industry at risk for a number of new and costly regulations. We know the cattle industry needs stability. Rearranging, changing and adding government regulations creates an unstable environment that doesn't allow the free market to work the way it should.
The Senate version also maintained important conservation programs, specifically the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). EQIP provides incentives to ranchers who voluntarily enter into conservation partnerships with the federal government.
An important research title was included in the Senate version of the Farm Bill. The research title is used to fund critical scientific studies to improve the health, well-being and sustainability of the U.S. cattle industry. TSCRA strongly supported the research title because it funds studies to help fight emerging diseases, discover new production practices and improve environmental stewardship, all of which are critical to the success of the U.S. cattle industry.
A handful of senators attempted to use the Farm Bill as a vehicle to pass harmful activist-driven production mandates and to allow the government to decide how cattle are marketed. Fortunately, those amendments were shot down.
The House is scheduled to pass its version in the coming weeks. TSCRA has worked with House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and Reps. Mike Conaway, Randy Neugebauer and Henry Cuellar to ensure that the House version is in line with TSCRA's priorities.
Once the House agrees on a version, both sides of Congress will meet in a Conference Committee to come up with a compromise between the House and Senate. If passed, this will be the final version of the bill. TSCRA will continue working with both chambers of Congress to ensure that the 2012 Farm Bill maintains the critical funding to keep the U.S. cattle industry strong while keeping federal regulations at bay.
TSCRA supports a 2012 Farm Bill that:
- minimizes federal involvement in agricultural production and preserves the individual's rights to manage land, water and resources.
- maintains funding of existing conservation programs.
- ensures a strong research title.
- supports a producer's ability to market cattle however, whenever and to whomever.
"Back Page — How Does the Farm Bill Affect Ranching? Very Little, We Hope" is from the August 2012 issue of The Cattleman