The National Cattlemen's Beef Association is expressing solid support for the Fiscal Year 2007 Ag Appropriations Bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The House passed H.R. 5384 by a vote of 378 to 46.
Of major concern to NCBA members were a number of potential amendments that could have adversely affected the cattle industry. NCBA succeeded in preventing several of these amendments from even being introduced on the House floor, including:
- Elimination of funding for brucellosis/bison management in the Yellowstone region.
- Funding for a National Academies of Sciences study on specified risk material removal from all animal feeds.
- An amendment that would undermine FDA's regulatory authority regarding the use of carbon monoxide in atmospheric packaging.
- Elimination of funding for horse processing, including USDA's fee-for-service operations in which the processor pays the entirety of USDA's costs.
"NCBA's efforts on Capitol Hill often involve playing defense, and some of our most important victories are the items that don't pass," says NCBA President Mike John, a cattleman from Huntsville, Mo. "Appropriations bills are tough because important programs are at risk if the process stalls, yet we can't afford to have amendments attached that are unworkable. I'm certainly pleased with the results of NCBA's efforts on this bill."
John cautioned that several of the failed amendments are likely to surface again in one form or another. Specifically, the ban on horse processing has gained traction in the form of H.R. 503, which currently has 173 House co-sponsors. He says the legislation sets a dangerous precedent by limiting animal agriculture's management options based on emotion, rather than sound science.
In addition to the amendments listed above, NCBA also opposed the following amendments that actually came to the House floor:
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, offered an amendment to eliminate all Fiscal Year 2007 funding for the National Animal Identification System. It was soundly defeated by a vote of 34-389.
Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, proposed elimination of all salaries and expenses funding for the Market Access Program. This amendment was defeated by a vote of 79-342.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, introduced an amendment regarding funding levels for USDA's Enhanced BSE Surveillance Program and overall testing numbers. Following debate, Kucinich withdrew this amendment.
For the third time in less than two weeks, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., introduced his amendment on "USA Competitiveness." This is an attempt to include language in the appropriations process to allow privately conducted BSE testing. Because this amendment is clearly a matter of authorizing language and not an appropriations issue, it was eventually withdrawn.
NCBA supported an amendment offered by Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., to increase funding for bovine tuberculosis eradication. This includes compensation for ranchers whose cattle herds have had to be quarantined and destroyed due to tuberculosis. This amendment passed by a vote of 345-76.
The Ag Appropriations process now moves to the U.S. Senate for further action, where debate is not expected until at least mid-June. John emphasized that while the cattle industry enjoyed great success in the House, the legislation still has a challenging road ahead.
"This bill contains many critical provisions related to livestock health, and we can't let it get bogged down by adverse amendments and political bickering," John says. "That's why it's so important for cattlemen to remain engaged and to speak personally with their members of Congress - especially over the Memorial Day recess. NCBA can't keep winning these battles on Capitol Hill without the grassroots support of cattlemen across the nation."