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GOP challenges livestock electronic ID rule

Policy quick hits: Mango and avocado inspection temporarily halted, Farm Bureau calls on lawmakers to address ag trade deficit; Utah and Wyoming sue feds over public land rule

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

June 24, 2024

3 Min Read
U.S. capitol building with flag background
Getty Images/franckreporter

There’s never a shortage of agriculture news. Here are a few policy stories you may have missed over the past week.

Lawmakers working to stave off new livestock electronic ID rule

A new Animal Health Inspection Service rule will require livestock shipped across state lines to have electronic identification ear tags.  The rule, which applies to animals older than 18-months, is set to go into effect in November. If some Republicans have their way, that will never happen.

U.S. Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso of Wyoming introduced legislation to overturn the rule using a process known as a Congressional Review Act. That process allows Congress to overturn executive branch rules if both chambers pass the bill.

Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo., introduced a House version of the bill along with 14 Republican cosponsors. She says the APHIS rule is a “solution in search of a problem” that will advance a federal mandate the ranching community will be left paying for.

“America produces the highest quality meat in the world and there is nothing wrong with our traditional disease traceability system,” Hageman says. “This unfunded mandate raises serious privacy concerns for ranchers and their herds, with the potential to lock ranchers out of their traditional markets, thereby furthering vertical integration of the U.S. food supply chain.”

Mango and avocado inspections resume

Mango and avocado inspection from Mexico were briefly halted last week after two USDA officials were reportedly held against their will and physically assaulted June 14. The incident occurred in the Mexican state of Michoacan during a protest over police pay.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service personnel work in Mexico to help stop the spread of plant diseases in that country from crossing the border. This is the second time inspections have been halted in Mexico since 2022.

Farm Bureau says ag trade deficit shows need for new policies

An economic analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation shows a number of factors are contributing to the record $32 billion agriculture trade deficit. On of the biggest culprits is the lack of available and affordable farm labor.

This has particularly hurt the fruit and vegetable sector. AFBF economist Betty Resnick notes that labor typically accounts for around 10% of farm costs. However, for labor-intensive fruit and vegetable producers, that number is closer to 38.5% and 28.8% of input costs, respectively.

U.S. ag are facing their fourth trade deficit in the past six years. Prior to 2019, there has not been an ag trade deficit since at least 1967. Falling commodity prices and a strong U.S. dollar are also major contributing factors. AFBF officials contend that the lack of trade agreements with new countries has also exacerbated the situation.

The U.S. has not entered into trade agreements with new countries since 2012.

“Our farmers are facing high labor costs — if they can hire help at all, competition from growers in other countries and stagnant, outdated trade agreements,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall says. “I hope Congress and the administration see this historic deficit as a wake-up call and work to implement policy changes to address these challenges.”

Utah, Wyoming sue feds over conservation rule

Utah and Wyoming are suing the Bureau of Land Management and the Interior Department over a new conservation rule. The Public Lands Rule introduced by the BLM earlier this year added conservation as a “use” of public land. BLM officials say this was done to combat threats like droughts, invasive species, wildfires and wildlife habitat loss.

Officials in Utah and Wyoming argue that the greater emphasis on conservation would hinder other permitted activities, including livestock grazing. The states also say the BLM should have considered those harms as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

The vast majority of BLM public lands are in western states, including 22.8 million acres in Utah and 18 million acres in Wyoming.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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