On June 16, the US House of Representatives passed by 221 votes to 204 votes 7606 the Food and Fuel Price Reduction Act, spoken of by leading Democratic authors. help eliminate supply chain risks, reduce food and gasoline prices, strengthen the food supply chain, and ensure sustainable competition in the meat and poultry sector.
In the administration’s policy statement in support of the bill, the administration notes: “Farmers today are caught between a concentration of market power in agricultural industries, whether in seed, fertilizer, feed, or equipment, and a concentration of market power in agricultural marketing channels. As a result, American farmers’ share of the value of their agricultural output has declined, and they often struggle to make sustainable profits.”
“This legislation complements many of the actions the administration is already taking to improve transparency and ensure fair and competitive markets for US agricultural producers and consumers, and to support sustainable farming,” SAP said.
The package also includes the Agriculture and Food Supply Chain Strengthening Act, which will establish a task force to strengthen agriculture and food supply chains to prevent bottlenecks and reduce food costs.
In addition, HR 7606 will help farmers implement nutrient management practices as well as promote more efficient use of fertilizers. It will also expand loan programs for farmers to introduce precision farming technologies. This includes $500 million that will provide additional USDA National Resource Conservation Service payments to farmers for implementing nutrient management practices, as well as increasing the cost share and practice fees to incentivize the purchase of precision farming equipment, systems and technologies. “Soybean farmers appreciate these steps to leverage conservation and precision farming practices and reduce producer costs,” the American Soybean Growers Association said in a statement.
National Farmers Union President Rob LaRue welcomed the passage, saying it includes many Farmers Union priorities that will ensure fairness for farmers. “Farmers Union members strongly support the USDA’s efforts to investigate a consolidation in the livestock industry that is squeezing profits out of farmers and ranchers. NFU also supports capacity expansion provisions that will give our members more options to deliver their products to their communities,” LaRue says.
However, in a speech on the House floor, senior House Agriculture Committee member Glenn “GT” Thompson, D-PA, said the bill “does nothing to reduce food and fuel costs.” On Wednesday, Thompson introduced HR 8069, the Agricultural Input Cost Reduction and Barriers to Domestic Production Act. The bill would require the Biden administration to remove its regulatory barriers to domestic agricultural production by granting relief to EPA action on crop protection products, clarify WOTUS rules, repeal the SEC climate rule, and require Packers economic cost-benefit analysis. and updating barnyard rules.
Meat Investigator’s Special Act
While many of the provisions included in the package did receive bipartisan support, some Republican and agricultural groups expressed disappointment that the bill contained the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act, which received only Democratic support when passed by the committee. The Special Investigators section of the Food and Fuel Cost Reduction Act will create a new position within the USDA to investigate broad anticompetitive issues.
“A new USDA special investigator will focus on preventing shortages, enforcing America’s antitrust laws, and holding unscrupulous meat industry participants accountable,” explains lead sponsor Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.
The National Cattlemen’s Association was disappointed by the inclusion of the bill in a larger package. “Rising food, fuel and fertilizer prices are hurting cattle producers across the country, but Congress has been relentlessly focused on the policy stance through this special investigation bill,” said NCBA vice president of government affairs Ethan Lane. “The NCBA strongly supports fairness and transparency in the marketplace, but Congress is wasting time on legislative proposals looking for a problem while ignoring the real issues affecting cattle producers.”
The NCBA says the bill is also unfunded, which would divert important resources from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service through critical programs producers rely on, such as market data reporting, meat grading, and a cattle contract library pilot program.
“We are disappointed that the House of Representatives voted to spend $9 million in taxpayers on an extra special investigator when that money would be much better spent helping Americans seeking relief from record inflation,” said Julie Anna Potts, President and chief executive officer of the Meat Institute. “This bill simply reiterates the authority already given to the DOJ and DOJ to enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act and creates a costly new government agency.”
However, the bill has bipartisan support and a companion bill in the Senate. Some groups of cattle supported the law.
“The addition of USDA oversight will help our industry achieve the bipartisan goal of holding every segment of the food supply chain accountable,” says Brandon Reeves, executive director of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, who adds that the VCA looks forward to partnering with lead sponsor Spanberger and her team on future efforts to increase transparency and accountability.
The inclusion of the Butcher Lockout Act in the larger package will create additional credit programs in the USDA for new and expanding meat processors to fund investments to encourage competition in the meat processing industry.
Also included in the package is the Year-Round Fuel Choice Act, which will permanently allow year-round sales of E15, a biofuel alternative that lowers average fuel costs and can cost forty cents a gallon less than regular gasoline.
Jeff Cooper, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, says: “By expanding the availability of cleaner, more affordable ethanol blends, this legislation will help provide immediate economic relief to American families who are experiencing unprecedented fueling pain.”
Specifically, the Food and Fuel Cost Reduction Act includes a permanent legislative fix for the summertime Reid vapor pressure exemption, extending the 1 psi exemption to mixtures of 10% or more. The project also includes $200 million in additional funding for higher grade infrastructure.