June 16, 2014
The House of Representatives began debating the House Agriculture Appropriations (spending) bill on the floor on Wednesday, June 11th. Much of the discussion in the media has been on the School Meal Standards, which is included in the agriculture appropriations bill. The First Lady provided her input prior to the floor debate, and the White House has since come out to say if the waiver amendment is included in the final agriculture appropriations bill (meaning after the Senate and House bills have gone through conference and compromise) then the President will veto the bill. In addition to this discussion, a key issue area we are monitoring closely and greatly concerned about is Congress’ efforts to further dismantle existing protections for small meat and poultry producers (known to policy folks as the GIPSA rule). Existing language in the House Ag Appropriations bill is unsettling, and would cause much harm to small producers under contract (usually contracts under corporate entities). This harmful language attacking GIPSA and farmer protections added to the bill is often called the “GIPSA rider.”
CFJC stands with our partners in strong opposition to the current GIPSA rider in the House, and has stood in opposition to all the many other GIPSA riders that have been snuck into legislation throughout the Farm Bill reauthorization process. The continued attack on farmers’ rights such as free speech and a competitive market is frightening, and goes against what some would consider as the core principles on which this country was founded.
Two of the particularly egregious pieces of the current GIPSA rider would:
- Remove USDA’s ability to protect farmers from retaliation by their employers if they choose to speak out against corporate abuse they experience, including talking to Members of Congress or USDA officials (free speech);
- Block a regulation that requires poultry companies to give 90-day notice before cutting off chick deliveries to the grower.
Contractors have been known to use this as one form of retaliation against their farmers who “step out of line.” Other forms of retaliation have included sending farmers their animals late, and knowingly sending sick animals, among other things.
Check back on the CFJC website for action items to protect GIPSA. Currently, there is an amendment waiting to be heard on the House side put forward by Representative Chellie Pingree (D-MA) that would remove some of these harmful provisions in the House bill, and support livestock, poultry and hog farmers.
The House will not be picking up the ag approps bill until after the fourth of July recess, and the Senate is set to review their ag approps bill this week.
There are significantly fewer proposed amendments in the appropriations process than there were in the Farm Bill reauthorization process, in both houses. As debate moves forward, there is opportunity for continued introduction of amendments, and we will continue to monitor with our GOAT participant allies.
May 20, 2014
Our Federal Appropriations Process has begun, with various subcommittees moving forward with meetings and mark-ups. CFJC and partners are following and working on the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee actions through the GOAT Process; the Appropriations process is a key piece in implementing the Farm Bill passed earlier this year.
The Farm Bill indicated and “authorized” funding for various programs, some of which is automatically allocated upon passage and signature by the president, others must then go through the appropriations process, where legislators discuss and decide the final funding level allocated to the program for the fiscal year. To secure the funding that was authorized to us by the Farm Bill, these programs (called discretionary programs) need support. Both the House and Senate agriculture subcommittee on Appropriations met for their mark-up last week, May 20. The full Senate Appropriations committee met on Thursday, May 22, a very quick turnaround for our legislators, and for the public to rally support for our issues. The full committee finalized the full Senate appropriations bill, including agriculture and all other subcommittee issue areas’ funding levels. The House full committee meeting is set to take place today on Thursday.
As of now, we have only heard of one amendment that will be going to the House today, put forward by Representatives Pingree and Kaptur, to remove the worst of the language that is harmful to the GIPSA rules. The Packers and Stockyards Act, also known as the GIPSA rules, protects farmers from abuses of the corporate market, something we have had to continuously protect throughout the Farm Bill process due to big meat lobbyists. For more information, check out what our partners, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition have to say.
For other Farm Bill programs, the USDA is starting to release Request for Applications (RFAs), where community groups can start applying for federal funds to fund food system work on the ground. RFAs for some of the programs that CFJC advocated for throughout the Farm Bill reauthorization process are listed and linked below:
– Local Food Promotion Program RFA
– Farmers’ Market Promotion Program RFA
– Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program USDA press release
– Rural Cooperative Development Grants info
– Small Socially-Disadvantaged Producer Grants info