In the over 5,500 pages of the recent approved appropriations and COVID-relief, there are several nuggets important to those in the livestock sector including certainty that producers can recoup payment losses by establishing a dealer trust, funding for agriculture quarantine inspection services and an extension of Livestock Mandatory Reporting.
Small meat processors
The bill offers expanded resources for state-inspected meat processors through inclusion of the Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants Act, which assists meat and poultry slaughtering and processing facilities with making improvements to allow for interstate shipment.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane says, “Local meat processors across the country continue to be severely backlogged due to COVID-19. NCBA has advocated relentlessly for passage of the RAMP UP Act, which allocates federal grant dollars to these small businesses – the modified version of this bill included in the House package allows local processors to take advantage of interstate retail channels and provide greater market access, ensuring beef always remains in stock.”
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture says it appreciates Congress appropriating funds for improvements to meat and poultry processing facilities, particularly those facilities currently in a Cooperative Interstate Shipment program.
“The $60 million this bill provides to increase meat processing capacity will help ensure supply chain continuity for the animal agriculture industry,” says NASDA CEO Dr. Barb Glenn.
The final package provides an extension of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act authority through September 30, 2021, to allow USDA to continue publishing reports on prices paid for cattle, swine, and sheep and meats derived from these livestock to facilitate informed marketing decisions.
The Senate had passed a reauthorization bill however, the House had never taken up the bill.
The final package includes $20 million in funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.
“We are thankful for several vital provisions in the omnibus bill, including strengthening biosecurity at our borders to keep foreign animal diseases outside the country,” says National Pork Producers Council President Howard “AV” Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wisc. “If a [foreign animal disease] were to enter the U.S. swine herd, the consequences would be disastrous, and a devastating blow to hog farmers already teetering on the financial edge due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The bill also provides $635 million to replenish the Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Services to remain available until September 30, 2022, to offset the loss resulting from the coronavirus pandemic of quarantine and inspection fees normally collected.
The Securing All Livestock Equitably Act of 2020, establishes a livestock dealer trust to benefit unpaid sellers of livestock. The 2018 Farm Bill provided for a USDA study on the feasibility of establishing a Livestock Dealer Statutory Trust, including analysis of the potential impacts a trust would have on livestock producers, dealers, markets, financiers, and other parties in the livestock sector.
A Dealer Statutory Trust will provide sellers of livestock much needed payment protection during dealer payment defaults. Livestock Marketing Association President Larry Schnell says, “This is a top priority issue for livestock auctions, which pay producers whether or not we are paid by buyers and have been devastated by past defaults.”
The creation of a Dealer Statutory Trust, modeled after the existing Packer Statutory Trust, will give unpaid sellers of livestock first priority in livestock or if the livestock have already been resold, the proceeds/receivables from livestock. While this protection for livestock sellers has long been needed, the volatile down market in cattle prices due to COVID-19 increased the urgency of addressing this issue.
Chronic Wasting Disease research
The bill provides strong funding for Chronic Wasting Disease management including $7 million for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service CWD funding to State Wildlife and State Departments of Agriculture (an increase of $2 million). And $2 million is targeted for APHIS to expand and collaborate on new CWD research activities, including transmission pathways and the prevention of future conflicts between humans and cervid populations. It also includes $4 million for APHIS’ cervid health activities.
Slaughter line speeds
The final bill directs the USDA to review the impacts of waivers granted for increasing line speeds - the speeds at which animals are killed - at slaughter plants and report back to Congress within 90 days. Animal groups have attempted to require this information through court lawsuits.
It also requires that the USDA consult with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on any future line speed increases.
USDA research on plant-based proteins
The omnibus package also promotes USDA-funded research into innovations in plant-based protein under funds from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. The Senate report encourages USDA “to support research projects that characterize protein from crop plants such as chickpeas, sorghum, lentils, fava beans, lupin, rice, oats, mushrooms, and water lentils to assess their suitability for use in food products. The Committee is particularly interested in research projects involving plants that can be easily cultivated in the U.S. and that are sustainably grown and produced, such as water usage or fertilizer and pesticide requirements.”
Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, says, “And as industrial animal agribusiness continues to put great strains on the environment and on public health, it becomes imperative that plant-based proteins are more and more the future of food. The USDA research into plant-based proteins is a sign of that paradigm shift.”