COOL, Competition and RFS Issues Raised by Farmers Union

US - National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson has testified before a US House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development and Credit hearing to review the state of the livestock industry.
calendar icon 1 May 2014
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“Farmers and ranchers are proud of what they produce and studies have shown that 95 per cent of consumers want Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL),” Johnson said.

“The World Trade Organization said the law is compliant. COOL has won twice in federal court. It is unfortunate to hear so many members of the subcommittee be more concerned about the fortunes of multinational packing and food companies rather than on-the-ground family farmers and ranchers. We know that consumer trust is of the utmost importance, and accurate COOL labels must be preserved.”

Rural America has lost 34 per cent of beef operations and 91 per cent of hog farms since 1980 – a total loss of 1.1 million livestock farms. There are also fewer meatpackers and processors. Today, the top four beef packers have control over 81 per cent of cattle slaughter in the US, and the top four swine processors control 65 per cent of hog sales.

“Fewer livestock buyers result in less competition, greater opportunity for antitrust violations, and a difficult market for the remaining farmers and ranchers,” said Johnson.

“The US Department of Agriculture has the authority to prohibit deceptive or fraudulent buying practices by processors and may protect farmers and ranchers if they have been harmed by unfair trade practices, but appropriations riders over the last three years have kept USDA from implementing these basic fairness rules. Future riders that impede enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act must be defeated.”

Biofuel production and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) help the rural economy as a whole. In 2006, when the RFS was enacted, net farm income was $57.4 billion. In 2012, net farm income stood at $112.8 billion and meat production has not declined significantly since the enactment of the RFS.

“Biofuels do not significantly drive up the price of food. In fact, according to USDA, only 16 per cent of grocery costs go back to farmers and ranchers,” said Johnson.

“The World Bank found that crude oil is the number one determinant of global food prices. We should reduce our dependence on oil consumption in order to become more food secure, and biofuel production is an excellent way to do that.”

Mr Johnson’s written testimony provides additional details and outlines NFU’s position on other important issues, including the impact of trade on the livestock sector and a proposal to allow the importation of beef from a region of Brazil with a history of foot and mouth disease.

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