More than 150 turkey industry representatives gathered in Washington in July for the National Turkey Federation’s Leadership Conference, where they met with legislators and key regulatory officials to raise concerns about the federal government’s renewable fuels policy, USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards proposed poultry and livestock marketing rule, the pending Free Trade Agreements and the debt ceiling negotiations, which were at a critical juncture during the conference.

Renewable fuels policy  

Renewable fuels policy was a top priority during congressional meetings. The Senate’s vote in June to repeal the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit and the tariff on imported ethanol was certainly an important grassroots win for NTF and its members. Equally significant was the House vote (283-128) to prohibit USDA from spending funds in the coming fiscal year to install ethanol “blender pumps” at gas stations, a key part of the ethanol industry’s plan for the future. Despite these victories, NTF members recognize that the battle to reform federal renewable fuels policy into something more sensible is far from over.

One of the more timely discussions was around ethanol-related infrastructure. As Congress continued its debt ceiling deliberations, NTF members educated their representatives on how infrastructure for the ethanol industry should not be part of the final package because it creates unnecessary costs to taxpayers and is intended only to put more corn in the gas tank, which increases feed and food costs for not only animal agriculture, but also the consuming public.

During their congressional meetings, NTF members also communicated that the turkey industry would like a flexible policy put in place that creates a practical, automatic and meaningful safety net to protect against a poor corn harvest, providing a mechanism that requires an adjustment to the Renewable Fuel Standard. The industry understands and supports the need to develop domestic sources of energy, but an adequate feed supply is a crucial priority.

GIPSA proposed marketing rule  

They also drove home the message that the scope of GIPSA’s proposed poultry and livestock marketing rule, if implemented, will increase regulatory and legal uncertainty for all segments of the turkey industry. NTF’s membership asked both House and Senate leadership to reaffirm their position with a provision in the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that prohibits GIPSA from spending any money to promulgate its controversial marketing rule.

Although USDA has agreed to conduct an economic assessment of the GIPSA rule, there still hasn’t been confirmation from the agency that they will submit the study for public comment before finalizing the rule. That is why the federation members asked Congress to review the economic impacts of the rule and request that USDA have an open comment period. This is an essential step if there is to be any level of confidence that the final rule truly has the interests of small family farmers and businesses at heart. Ultimately, Congress should include the appropriate changes in the 2012 Farm Bill that the proposed rule be limited to the specific areas requested in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Free trade agreements  

NTF members urged Congress to support the pending U.S. FTAs with Korea, Columbia and Panama. Combined, the three FTAs represent nearly $2.5 billion in new agriculture exports and could generate up to 22,500 new U.S. jobs. By USDA estimates, the Korea FTA alone would reduce tariffs on frozen turkey cuts from the current 18% ultimately down to zero over the next seven years.