August, 2006-More than 165 turkey industry executives converged on our nation’s capital last month to discuss issues with legislators and regulators that could affect the turkey industry. Several issues – immigration reform, Superfund liability and avian influenza (AI) – were addressed during numerous meetings with legislators.
Immigration Reform:The Senate version of the Immigration Reform Bill contains two provisions essential to turkey operations, and the industry requested that legislators include those provisions in the final version of any immigration bill that passes. Those provisions include an electronic verification system that, while not perfect, would be of significant benefit to the industry and a fair, practical guest-worker program.
The electronic verification system would allow employers to confirm an employee’s eligibility from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or ICE would provide a tentative non-confirmation within 10 days.
The proposed guest-worker program authorizes a broad visa program for foreign workers to fill jobs when no domestic labor is available. The visa would be valid for three years and is renewable one time for another three years.
Superfund Liability: Because pending litigation seeks to subject animal agriculture operators to two industrial environmental laws Congress never intended to apply to farms, NTF members asked Congress to move quickly to pass legislations clarifying the law’s original intent. A House bill was introduced last November, which made it clear that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPRCA) do not apply to poultry and livestock operations. The House bill has 173 co-sponsors. A Senate companion bill, which at press time the industry expected to be introduced, also seeks to insure that industry is not subject to an adverse ruling in the pending Oklahoma lawsuit, which seeks to apply CERCLA’s “Superfund” liability to several poultry companies.
NTF members urged those representatives and senators who have not co-sponsored H.R. 4341 or the pending Senate bill to do so as soon as possible.
Avian Influenza: Legislators were informed about the industry’s precautions against the Asian strain of AI and were asked to encourage the federal government to do all it could to enhance those efforts and insure our international customers recognize them.
First, the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP), a cooperative program between government and industry, needs to be published. This commercial surveillance program, which includes testing for AI, needs official government sanction because without it circumstances may arise that could impede upon international trade even if no case of AI had appeared in this country.
Then, NPIP should insure growers will receive 100-percent compensation if their flock needs to be destroyed because of H5 or H7 low pathogenic AI. USDA currently provides growers 100-percent compensation for losses due to highly pathogenic AI.
Representatives and senators were asked to contact USDA and the Office of Management and Budget to urge immediate publication of an interim final rule implementing the NPIP commercial surveillance program in a manner that insures growers also receive 100-percent indemnity for flocks destroyed because of H5 or H7 LPAI.
The NTF Leadership Conference included a special event where industry executives enjoyed a “Dutch treat” dinner with seven regulators, which allowed for discussion on such topics as salmonella performance standards with FSIS, environmental regulations with EPA, animal drug availability with CVM and the school lunch program with AMS.
Rep. Paul Gillmor from Ohio provided the keynote presentation during this meeting. Gillmor played a critical role in the development of the legislation to clarify that CERCLA and EPCRA should not be applied to agriculture. Congressman Gillmor chairs the energy and commerce subcommittee on environment and hazardous materials, which has jurisdiction over this legislation.
The NTF Leadership Conference concluded with its annual congressional reception, where more than a dozen congressman, and 200 of their legislative staff, dined on deep fried turkey.
Grassroots efforts, such as those provided during NTF’s Leadership Conference, are invaluable. There is no substitute for a turkey grower or processor directly conversing with a regulator or explaining to a congressman or senator the implications of pending legislation on business in their district.■