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US Congress approves much applauded Farm Bill

The US Congress last week approved of the 2008 Farm Bill - officially known as the Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act. The bill includes a number of provisions beneficial to the US pork industry, according to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

"Our goal going into the Farm Bill process was to maintain the competitiveness of the US pork industry, which meant increasing funds for vital programs and keeping out any mischief," said NPPC president Bryan Black. "We accomplished that goal, and the 2008 Farm Bill is good for producers."

Among the provisions that NPPC supported are ones that will:

• Change the Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling law to include four new label categories for meat, including one to address Canadian feeder pigs by allowing flexibility in labeling so that producers and packers can reduce sorting costs. 

• Require a study that looks at the costs and impacts on pork producers and consumers of requiring packers to report wholesale pork cut prices and volumes. 

• Authorise a voluntary national trichinae certification programme, which will certify that exported pork is trichinae-free thus further increasing export opportunities.

• Authorise the US Pork Center of Excellence, which coordinates research, teaching and extension for the pork industry on a national scale.

• Authorise research grants for mapping the swine genome.

• Authorise research and education grants for the study of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including the movement of antibiotic-resistant bacteria into ground and surface water, and for the study of judicious use of antibiotics in veterinary and human medicine.

• Increase funds for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and make it easier for pork producers to qualify for the cost-share conservation programme.

• Increase funds for the Conservation Security Program to allow more acres to be enrolled and restructure the program to provide conservation stewardship payments that encourage producers to implement additional conservation practices.

• Allow the use of manure and manure biogas for advanced biofuel and renewable biomass production.

• Provide incentives for expanding production of advanced biofuels made from agricultural and forestry crops and associated waste materials, including animal manure and livestock and food processing waste.

• Give producers the right to cancel production contracts within three days of signing.

• Sense of Congress regarding the pseudorabies eradication programme, recognising the threat of feral swine to the domestic swine population and establishing continued support for the swine surveillance system.

• Increase funding for the export-promoting Market Access Program and for the Foreign Market Development programme.

• Direct the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration to provide Congress an annual report on the number and resolution of livestock cases brought under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

• Allow interstate shipment of state-inspected meat and poultry from packing plants that have state inspection programmes that are identical to the federal programme.

Blender's credit
The bill also lowers the ethanol blender's credit from $0.51 per gallon to $0.45 cents and extends the import tariff on ethanol to December 31, 2010, from December 31, 2009.

NPPC, which first raised concerns about the rapid rise of corn-based ethanol production in September 2006, said extending the 54-cent import tariff will further inflate the high feed costs currently affecting pork producers.

Support
"NPPC supports ethanol production," said NPPC's Black. "But pork producers still have concerns about corn costs and availability, both of which are affected by ethanol production, and about our ability to compete for corn on a level playing field with the subsidised ethanol industry."

The Farm Bill now will be sent to the White House, where President Bush  is expected to veto the measure because, he says, it does not include reforms to various farm programs and does include budgetary gimmicks and tax increases.

Related websites:
• National Pork Producers Council (NPPC)
• US Congress 

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