Charting the path forward - that was the theme of the May meeting of the Institute for Feed Education and Research's Board of Trustees. They welcomed four new Board members and approved three new research projects for the upcoming year, as well as conducted other business.
The American Feed Industry Association recently participated in a policy forum, "The Evolving Landscape of Agricultural Policy," at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). AFIA President and CEO-elect Constance Cullman spoke on a panel where she discussed the need for science-based policies to support new innovations for the U.S. and global feed sector and support for members when needed.
One of the animal food industry's sustainability pillars focuses on how companies are supporting their local communities. Last year, the American Feed Industry Association found through its annual charitable giving survey that its members donated over $44 million to an expansive list of community causes and a whopping 92,000 volunteer hours in 2017.
Farm Bill negotiators said Thursday that they have reached an "agreement in principle," boosting confidence that they have settled disputes around food stamps, commodity programs and forestry issues, making it more likely that Congress can send the bill to President Donald Trump for signature before the end of the year.
Congress has until Dec. 7 to pass the seven remaining fiscal 2019 appropriations bills, including one that funds the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration. If nothing else, Congress will need to pass another short-term stopgap bill, which will buy another deadline extension.
The chair and ranking member of the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee have been working together on legislation to provide farm aid to producers reeling from Hurricanes Florence and Michael, as well as the wildfires out West. In a joint letter to the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee, the subcommittee leaders addressed Congress' "responsibility" to find solutions and provide relief to those in need.
The 2014 Farm Bill expired at midnight, Sept. 30, with Congress nowhere near a compromise needed to pass a new law. Now, it is up to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pick up the pieces while farm bill negotiators seek common ground on tough issues.
House and Senate agriculture leaders have not made any headway leading into a crucial week for meeting their goal of passing a farm bill by Sept. 30, the date the current farm bill expires. The House has been on recess this week, making scheduling all the more difficult.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, submitted a comprehensive farm bill proposal to his Senate counterparts last week that made what he described as "significant compromises" on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a key sticking point for democrats.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said last week "the sky isn't going to fall" if Congress doesn't pass a farm bill by the Sept. 30 deadline. But, he added that he has faith that Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., will get the legislation finished on time.
Before going home for two weeks, last week, the Senate leadership named nine senators to the farm bill conference committee. The Senate will return on Aug. 14, and the farm bill will no doubt be on their immediate "to-do" list. The House is on recess through the end of August, setting up a tight and unlikely timeline to get a farm bill done before it expires on Sept. 30.
House and Senate agriculture members will soon be discussing the differences between their respective chambers' farm bills as part of the farm bill conference period, which began last week. The members will be charged with ironing out the differences between the bills so that Congress can vote on one package before the current bill expires Sept. 30.
Members of Congress are gearing up for a farm bill showdown as conference negotiations on the bill will soon take place. The first task will be to determine which lawmakers will sit on the committee. House and Senate agriculture staffers have likely already begun working behind the scenes to start merging the bills.
The Senate Agriculture Committee passed the Senate's version of the farm bill this week, which would provide additional support for dairy farmers and establish a vaccine bank for livestock diseases, though it would leave funding for the vaccine initiative up to congressional appropriators. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is eyeing voting on the bill before the July 4th congressional recess.
The Senate Appropriations Committee sent to the full chamber Thursday a bill that provides $23.235 billion in discretionary funding for a host of programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. The Agriculture and FDA spending bill (S. 2975) is $225 million above fiscal 2018 enacted levels. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hopes to move some of the federal government spending bills quickly and is teeing them up for a June vote on the Senate floor.
On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee advanced the fiscal 2019 Agriculture-Food and Drug Administration Appropriations bill by a vote of 31-20, following the addition of eight new amendments.
The farm bill debate got off to a heated start Wednesday with Democrats forcefully opposing it and Republicans warning against amendments that could threaten the bill's fate in the House. "Our farmers and our people need us," pleaded Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga.
The House draft of the farm bill is slowly progressing due to concerns with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-related provisions that encourage people not to marry. Some anti-poverty experts say SNAP already penalizes marriage because recipients face a potential drop in benefits when they combine incomes. They argue the proposed work requirements in the House farm bill could compound the problem by requiring both parents to work at least 20 hours per week after their children reach the age of six.
On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee passed H.R. 2, or the farm bill, introduced by Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas. The farm bill is unusually contentious this year, with Democrats opposed to changes to the food stamp program. During the short markup period, Republicans introduced and passed 20 amendments.
To get a 2018 Farm Bill finished, House Agriculture Committee Chair Mike Conaway, R-Texas, must convince ranking member Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and the other committee Democrats to help him find a solution to the committee's battle over a Republican move to rewrite eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Upcoming farm bill negotiations and hearings came to a halt last week as House Democrats delivered a letter to Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, demanding to see the legislative text of the farm bill, especially the nutrition title, before negotiating further. Democrats have voiced their opposition to tentative provisions in the bill that would limit some eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including some work requirements for able-bodied adults.
Each March, the Agriculture Council of America hosts National Ag Day to celebrate the role agriculture plays in providing a safe, abundant and affordable food supply. This year's Ag Day occurred March 20, and, as a sponsor, the American Feed Industry Association participated in several events in Washington, D.C.
The deadline for the farm bill, per usual, has been a moving target. Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have committed to getting a farm bill done "right" and "on time." On Wednesday, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he is gearing up for a farm bill to be released in early April and that his staff is already sharing legislative language with the minority staff members, including with ranking member Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., in an upcoming meeting. Given Congress has a lengthy to-do list this spring, including an omnibus spending package, AFIA will wait to see if farm bill discussions continue as planned.