House subcommittees start reauthorization of grain standards, livestock market reporting acts | TSLN.com

House subcommittees start reauthorization of grain standards, livestock market reporting acts

House Agriculture subcommittees this week began the process of reauthorizing the U.S. Grain Standards Act and the Mandatory Livestock Reporting Act, with hearings to discuss those laws.

House Agriculture General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford, R-Ark., noted at a hearing Tuesday that the U.S. Grain Standards Act was first passed in 1916, but the current law is scheduled to expire September 30. The law authorizes the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration to establish official marketing standards for grains and oilseeds, and requires that exported grains and oilseeds be officially weighed and inspected. It also establishes rules for the voluntary inspection of domestic grain.

Citing the gap in export inspections by the Washington state Agriculture Department at the port of Vancouver during a labor dispute last year, Crawford said that the GSA provides a mechanism for the Agriculture Department to provide inspection services, but that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had declined to offer them.

"While inspection services were eventually restored, it is incumbent on the committee to take appropriate action to provide safeguards against a repeat of that unfortunate decision," Crawford said.

He added that he believes the subcommittee has considered the views of industry, and the draft of the bill is almost ready for public release.

Officials representing the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, the National Grain and Feed Association, and the North American Export Grain Association testified that the law should be reauthorized but the section providing for USDA to provide services when there are problems should be strengthened.

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The American Federation of Government Employees urged the subcommittee to avoid any attempts to privatize the service.

The same day, the House Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee held a hearing to review the reauthorization of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act.

Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C., chairman of the subcommittee, noted that the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Act was enacted in 1999 in response to changing markets, with an increasing number of animals being sold via marketing arrangements under which prices were not publicly disclosed. That act expires September 30.

The act mandated price reporting for live cattle, boxed beef, and live swine, and allowed USDA to establish mandatory price reporting for lamb sales. Subsequent reauthorizations modified swine reporting provisions and reporting of wholesale pork cuts.

Rouzer said that while a draft is being prepared, further discussion with industry will be necessary before it is released.

Mark Dopp, senior vice president of the North American Meat Institute, testified that the livestock industry has not yet reached consensus on the reauthorization, but he is "confident we can achieve this goal in a manner that makes the program more effective and efficient without increasing costs or regulatory burdens."

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council asked that livestock reporting be declared an "essential" government service, which would mean that it would not be stopped in the case of a government shutdown, as it was in 2013.

–The Hagstrom Report