Livestock Marketing Reform Bills Get Approval from Senate Committee

In an effort to help farmers get the best deals possible on their livestock, two bills regarding the sale of sheep and cattle got approval from the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry last month. Introduced by Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Angus King (I-ME), the Sheep and Dairy Cow Fatality Prevention Act would require that livestock farmers be notified within 24 hours when an animal they’ve sold dies or becomes injured. The bill was supported by animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the United States, as well as the National Sheriff’s Association.

What are the Livestock Marketing Assistance Program Improvement Act and Fairness for Farmers Act?
The Livestock Marketing Assistance Program Improvement Act (S. 1622) updates MLA to address current economic conditions and sets up a formula based payment system that puts more money into producers’ pockets while reducing administrative costs to citizens. The Fairness for Farmers Act (S. 1731) addresses marketing loan deficiency payments by setting a reasonable trigger price at which payments are triggered, providing certainty for livestock producers and protecting citizen. Both bills were introduced by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, in response to requests from livestock producers across North Dakota and around the country calling on Congress to reform MLA as soon as possible so they can plan their operations with certainty in order to meet their financial obligations throughout 2015.

What has been the reaction to these bills?
The approval of these bills by a senate committee is seen as a major win for those who have been asking for transparency in livestock marketing since earlier this year. The passing of both of these bills are also seen as some of senate’s first legislative victories following a rough couple months where major legislation stalled and experienced key defeats. Some have argued that while it may be too early to call it, today could be considered a good day for congress. Many members on both sides of the aisle were pleased with today’s results, but there are still many hurdles to overcome before either bill becomes law. These include votes in other committees, possible filibusters, and any potential vetoes by President Obama if they make it through congress.

Who supports the bill and who doesn’t?
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) issued a statement applauding Senators who voted in favor of and cosponsored S.B. 647, while People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) issued a statement condemning crippling cruelty inherent in factory farming. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association came out as neutral on S.B. 666, but warned that it could harm small farms and ranchers who do not use federal marketing orders.

How will the new laws affect producers, packers, and consumers?
Last week, both chambers of Congress passed their respective versions of two livestock marketing reform bills, H.R. 3192 (The PRIME Act) and S. 1242 (S. 1039). Now that they’ve been approved by a committee in each chamber, it looks as though we could be seeing some real progress with these proposals in 2018—if we can get them through committees in both chambers and pass both houses of Congress. So what are these laws about? And how will they affect producers, packers, and consumers? Let’s take a look at each bill individually.

When will the bills become law?
These bills have received Senate approval, but they still need to pass through House committees before they can be sent to President Obama. At that point, it’s up to President Obama whether or not he signs them into law. Both these bills were introduced in 2016; if approved before then, they will take effect in 2017. The earliest these bills could take effect is January 2017; if they don’t meet that deadline, however, He could take up to two years for these invoices to be fully adopted. It all depends on how quickly they move through Congress and how soon after their passage Obama approves them. Once these bills are signed into law, USDA has about one year to implement any changes needed for existing programs and procedures.

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