By P.J. Griekspoor and John Vogel
With farm bill listening sessions being held across the country, congressional farm bill-shapers are getting earfuls. The most critical antis — those lobbying significant changes — go straight to the halls and offices at the nation’s capitol — and to the media. Here’s a quick peek at what’s being lobbed at key legislators by a few opponents of current farm bill policy:
Give farmers freedom to fail
Heritage Foundation’s Ag Policy Analyst Daren Bakst proposes capping insurance premium subsidies to participating farmers at $40,000. The foundation also proposes eliminating the harvest price option, which could allow farmers to receive more money than expected when they plant crops.
“Legislators need to stop treating agricultural producers as incapable of managing ordinary business risks,” he argues. “These are the same risks that a small mom-and-pop store manages every day. There’s nothing ‘pro-farmer’ in maintaining central planning policies.”
The foundation also proposes elimination of system duplication — double-dipping. Billions of dollars flow to ag producers through farm commodity programs, even if they already participate in the federal crop insurance program.
Tack animal welfare on?
Several free-standing animal welfare bills are ripe for being tacked onto the farm bill, claims Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society of the United States CEO. Pacelle’s list of tackables:
• The Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act would amend the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit the slaughter, trade, import or export of dogs and cats for human consumption.
• The Safeguard American Food Exports Act would protect horses by prohibiting the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption.
• The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act would end the failed industry self-policing system, ban devices integral to soring (including large stacked shoes and ankle chains), strengthen penalties and hold abusers accountable. USDA is the agency responsible for enforcing the Horse Protection Act that PAST amends, so the farm bill is a logical place to consider an upgrade to the law, says Pacelle.
The farm bill also presents an opportunity to pass the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act. The OFF Act would provide accountability, transparency and an auditing program for USDA’s commodity checkoff programs so funds can be used as intended, notes the HSUS president.
Congress can take up the pro-animal, good government measures as free-standing bills. But if lawmakers don’t take up these free-standing bills, the farm bill is the right vehicle to improve our nation’s animal welfare programs to build new standards for treating animals well, Pacelle contends.
Most farm groups consider the issue of labels on genetically modified foods or food ingredients to be settled. But that won’t stop strong opponents such as Sustainable Pulse and Moms Across America from trying to make GMO labeling part of any food safety initiative.
With Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, focused on making sure that agroterrorism and food security get attention, it’s likely there’ll be an opening for the “GMO antis” to make their presence known in the process.