Senate immigration bill would set up a new permanent ag worker program

DC

Sweeping immigration legislation taking shape in the Senate will aim to overhaul the nation’s agriculture worker program to create a steady supply of labor for farmers and growers, who rely more than any other industry on workers who have come to the country illegally. Read more…

How one federal program was able to beat the sequester

DC

The sequester was supposed to be something new in Washington: a budget cut you couldn’t beat. But after an extensive – and ultimately successful – campaign by meat industry stakeholders, the money to keep federal food inspectors on the job was found. Read more…

Horse slaughter plant’s lawyer says opening just weeks away

horses

The lawyer for a New Mexico meat plant that wants to be the first to slaughter horses in the U.S. since 2007 says the facility may be operational in just a few weeks. The company is one of several that have applied to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to slaughter horses, a practice that ended in 2007 after Congress defunded government inspections at the facilities. That measure lapsed in 2011. The USDA, which would regulate the plant, didn’t immediately comment on the lawyer’s assertion. The agency this month said that once the company meets technical requirements and inspector training has taken place, “the department will legally have no choice but to go forward with inspections.” Read more…

Cattlemen Connect: Rep. Trent Ashby

Check out this first edition of “Cattlemen Connect”, a new video series by TSCRA to help members connect with elected officials. This video focuses on Texas State Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Dist. 57, Lufkin, and what topics are influencing his area of the state. Read more…

Cornyn to speak at Cattle Raisers Convention

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U.S. Sen. John Cornyn will speak during the Opening General Session of the136th Annual Cattle Raisers Convention, March 22-24 in Fort Worth. Cornyn will update attendants on federal legislation and regulations that could affect the cattle industry, including immigration and border security, federal budget cuts and the Endangered Species Act. Read more…

NCBA favors voluntary COOL

Photo © 2012 Cattlemen's Beef Board

The USDA’s new proposed rule for country of origin labeling (COOL) will just create more problems for the U.S. beef industry, says NCBA President Elect Bob McCan, a cattleman from Victoria, Texas, and TSCRA past president. Speaking on NCBA’s “Beltway Beef” audio program, McCan says there is no regulatory fix to bring COOL rules into compliance with World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement. Read more…

Cuts target farm programs, insurance

DC

Once again, farm programs are on the chopping block in Washington. Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released a budget that would trim $4.6 trillion in federal spending over the next decade, by cutting spending on Medicare, repealing part of Obamacare and giving more authority to states to run nutrition programs. But it also targets farm programs. Read more…

Lack of milkers drives immigration debate

DC

The Alpina Foods Inc. plant that just opened in Batavia, N.Y., to feed the nation’s growing appetite for Greek-style yogurt should have nearby dairy farmers such as Matt Lamb scrambling to expand their herds. It isn’t — and not because cows are in short supply. Lamb says he’s reluctant to add to his family’s 5,000-cow dairy operation for fear he won’t have enough workers to milk them every day. That’s partly due, he says, to U.S. immigration laws that were designed for seasonal farm laborers instead of the year-round, seven-days-a-week ones he needs. Read more…

Whole Foods sets GMO labeling deadline

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Whole Foods Market Friday announced that by 2018, all products in its U.S. and Canadian stores must be labeled to indicate if they contain genetically modified organisms. Whole Foods is the first grocer to set a deadline for full GMO labeling. Read more…

USDA issues proposed rule to amend labeling provisions under COOL

Photo courtesy USDA.gov

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a proposed rule to modify the labeling provisions for muscle cut commodities covered under the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program. The proposed rule would modify the labeling provisions for muscle cut covered commodities to require the origin designations to include information about where each of the production steps (i.e., born, raised, slaughtered) occurred and would remove the allowance for commingling of muscle cuts. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) says the proposed amendments will only further hinder U.S. trading relationships with partners such as Canada and Mexico, and raise the cost of beef for consumers and result in retaliatory tariffs being placed on U.S. export products. Read more…

US meat industry seeks 3-year worker visa in immigration reform

DC

Congress should create a visa program, valid for at least three years, for foreigners willing to work year-round on poultry farms or in meatpacking and processing plants, an industry group said on Tuesday. Read more…

FDA: Rules protect from BSE, but comment period reopens

FDA

The Food and Drug Administration is reopening the comment period for the interim final rule entitled ‘Use of Materials Derived From Cattle in Human Food and Cosmetics.’ The interim final rule protects consumers from exposure to bovine spongiform encephalopathy by prohibiting the use of certain cattle parts in human food, including dietary supplements, and cosmetics. Read more…

Horse slaughter debate heats up

horses

In the wake of the European scandals over unlabeled horse meat turning up in prepared foods, the issue of horse slaughter in the U.S. has returned to the headlines this week. Horse slaughter has essentially been banned in the United States since 2007, when Congress passed an appropriations bill that specifically prevented the USDA from using funds to inspect horse-slaughter plants. Horses processed for meat in this country must by law have USDA inspection. Congress dropped the ban in 2011, but USDA has yet to approve any horse plants for inspection through its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Read more…

New estimates cut farm bill savings

DC

Writing a new farm bill just got harder. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released new estimates on Friday, substantially downgrading the promised savings from House and Senate proposals last summer. The CBO says the Senate-passed farm bill will save only $13.1 billion in 10 years, compared with a promised $23.1 billion last July. The House Agriculture Committee plan, which never made it to the floor, fares better but comes down as well from $35.1 billion to $26.6 billion in 10-year savings. Read more…

Cornyn introduces bill to prevent abuse of Endangered Species Act litigation

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn

U.S. Senator John Cornyn introduced the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Settlement Reform Act this week, which will give impacted local parties a say in the settlement of ESA litigation between special interest groups and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Read more…

Combs: Preserving endangered species the Texas way

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs discusses how Texas is facing the challenge of endangered species in this op-ed in The Washington Times. Read more…

Supreme Court won’t hear pipeline case

photo: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

The Texas Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from LaSalle Pipeline LP over a jury award to a McMullen County family that has been battling the pipeline company since 2009. The case created a precedent for ensuring that pipeline firms pay something for the diminished value of the so-called “remainder” property that isn’t taken under an easement. And it caused pipeline companies to offer more money for easements. Read more…

The Ag Minute: Market access must be enforced

exports

This week during The House Committee on Agriculture’s Ag Minute radio show, guest host Rep. Rick Crawford discusses the recent trade setback with one of our major markets for U.S. meat products. Russia’s closed market illustrates the need for effective enforcement by our trade agencies. International trade rules require policies that are based on sound science. Read more…

Transportation bill improves safety and competitiveness

anguscows

Last week HR 763 Safe and Efficient Transportation Act was introduced in Congress which would give states the option to allow 6-axle 90,000 pound trucks on the interstate system within their borders. This is an issue that the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and many other ag organizations have worked hard to get in place for quite a while. Read more…

Johanns introduces legislation on EPA transparency

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U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) introduced Wednesday a package of legislation promoting greater transparency and accountability in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory process. The package contains four individual pieces of legislation. Read more…