Lawmakers listen on turkey issues
Turkey industry executives saw results from more than 100 meetings with their elected officials during the National Turkey Federation’s Leadership Conference, July 18-20, in Washington.
The executives also met with regulators and other policymakers. Certainly, it was a critical time to be in our nation’s capital, with serious debate under way on poultry and livestock marketing, antibiotic use in animal agriculture, environmental regulations, food safety reform and the renewable fuels policy.
GIPSA proposed rule
On more than one of these issues, the 150 participants saw measurable results. The most obvious example is on a proposed livestock and marketing rule from USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). The rule would have a significant impact on poultry contracting, and the growers, processors and allied industry representatives at the conference all agreed the scope of the rule is so immense that GIPSA’s 60-day comment period was woefully short.
The Leadership Conference participants joined a growing chorus from all segments of the livestock and poultry industry calling for an extension of the comment period. Those meetings added fuel to a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing that already was scheduled and it helped generate a letter from Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln and 17 other senators seeking an extension. Coupled with the strong work by other producer and processor associations, GIPSA on July 26 granted a 90-day extension on the comment period.
Antibiotics in food animal production
With some in Congress seeking to legislate the withdrawal of certain antibiotics from use in food-producing animals, the industry told Congress that FDA should take the lead in developing a review process.
Although FDA has not released the details of how its proposed review of antibiotics would work, initial indications (reinforced by NTF member meetings with FDA) are that it could be the type of science-based, risk-based process that will increase the chances that any change in animal antibiotic use has a demonstrable benefit to public health. Furthermore, NTF members expressed concern with the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act that would eliminate two or three of the four approved uses of antibiotics.
EPA has certainly been targeting the poultry industry with several major environmental policies that will affect the turkey industry and drastically increase the regulatory requirements for poultry farmers and processors. The main areas of concern that NTF members discussed were the Chesapeake Bay Water Regulations, the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Rule, Lawsuit Settlement and Guidance, and the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Regulations.
Because these regulations could collectively impose severe economic harm on the turkey industry without achieving meaningful environmental benefits, NTF members urged Congress to conduct proper and thorough oversight of EPA initiatives to allow appropriate opportunities for economic recovery and to continue advances in environmental management.
The message from NTF and other poultry and meat groups seems to be resonating. In late July, the House Agriculture Committee passed legislation that would provide a more reasonable, balanced approach to regulating the Chesapeake Bay. The legislation has a long way to go yet, but it was an important first step in restoring science and common-sense to the process.
Food Safety Reform
Congress is currently considering food safety legislation that reforms FDA’s system of inspecting non-meat and poultry products. NTF members requested during their Hill meetings that food safety proposals should not impose unnecessary costs or burdensome requirements on industry and must have a measurable public health outcome.
NTF members requested that Congress oppose the extension of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) and import tariff. Ending the VEETC (blenders’ credit) and the import tariff on foreign ethanol is the first step in making corn-based ethanol compete fairly in the marketplace. It’s important that our lawmakers understand that the current renewable fuels policy is hurting agriculture. That’s why NTF members encouraged their representatives to create a safety net to protect against a poor corn harvest, as well as educate them on the impact of feed prices should the ethanol blend level increase.