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NFU and USCA Oppose USDA Proposal to Import Animal Products from Brazil PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 14, 2014

Contact: Brittany Jablonsky, 202-314-3108
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WASHINGTON (May 14, 2014) – Today National Farmers Union (NFU), along with the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA), sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requesting he withdraw the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposal to relax restrictions on imports of animal products from Brazil. Recent revelations about the state of livestock health and food safety standards in Brazil raise additional concerns about loosening restrictions on imports.

Brazil has a long history of foot and mouth disease outbreaks among livestock, but last week bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), another contagious animal disease, was confirmed in Mato Grosso, a state in the region of Brazil from which USDA proposes to allow imports of animal products. When BSE was first identified in the United States in December 2003, 65 of our trading partners eventually imposed partial or full bans on U.S. beef.

“The health and integrity of animal agriculture is extraordinarily important to rural America and to the U.S. economy as a whole. Any threats to this industry deserve thorough investigation, and the events in Brazil warrant close scrutiny by the USDA before further advancing,” the letter states.

USDA recently released correspondence with Brazilian food safety regulators about the country’s meat inspection system. USDA conducted an audit in early 2013, which found concerns about Brazil’s ability to evaluate food safety procedures. Brazilian regulators have begun to consider changes in standards and enforcement, but have not fully implemented these measures.

“Family farmers and ranchers would suffer tremendously if an animal disease outbreak were to occur in the United States, both from the loss of livestock as well as from consumers’ loss of confidence in our food safety and animal health systems,” the letter concludes. “We look forward to working with USDA to ensure that our livestock industry remains strong and urge you to reconsider the proposed rule on Brazilian animal product imports.”

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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NFU Submits Additional Livestock Testimony PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2014

Contact: Brittany Jablonsky, 202-314-3108
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WASHINGTON (May 12, 2014) – Today National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson submitted additional testimony to the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development and Credit, following up on an April 30, 2014, hearing on the state of the livestock industry. Johnson’s comments respond to discussion that occurred during the hearing.

“Witnesses and congressional Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) opponents insist that COOL holds no value to consumers, but NFU knows that is simply not true,” said Chandler Goule, NFU senior vice president of programs. “A 2003 Colorado State University study confirms that consumers are willing to pay a premium to know the origin of their food. Furthermore, COOL compliance costs amount to less than one-third of a cent per pound of meat, which certainly doesn’t justify the protests of the packers and processors reaping billions of dollars of profit.”

Of the seven witnesses who testified at the April hearing, only two represent organizations with strictly farmer or rancher members and the remaining five witnesses represent packer-producer organizations or meat companies. This presented a disproportionate opportunity for packers and processors to express their views in conflict with family farmers and ranchers.

“Congress acted in favor of COOL by including it in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills and demonstrated support for COOL by defeating an effort to undermine it in the 2014 Farm Bill. All parties in the livestock sector would be well-served to look toward a future in which consumers wish to know more about their food – an objective fulfilled in part by COOL,” said Johnson.

Johnson’s written comments elaborate on other important livestock issues, including an outline of common-sense rules about the relationship between meatpackers and contract poultry growers, which are currently being blocked by appropriations riders. NFU’s testimony also cites the May 5, 2014, discovery of a cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Brazil as an additional reason to oppose the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposal to allow the importation of animal products from Brazil.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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NFU President Joins USDA Trade Mission to China PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 7, 2014

Contact: Brittany Jablonsky, 202-314-3108
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WASHINGTON (May 7, 2014) -- Today National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson joins Michael Scuse, under secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and a number of other renewable energy and agriculture leaders from across the country on a mission to promote U.S.-produced biofuels and other agricultural products in northeast China.

"The U.S. ethanol industry has developed into an extraordinarily productive, efficient and competitive sector of the economy. I am pleased to have the opportunity to promote homegrown biofuels and their environmental benefits to our trading partners," said Johnson.

The United States could increase domestic demand for biofuels by increasing the percentage of ethanol blended with gasoline. However, the U.S. oil industry has consistently blocked proposals to do so.

"Unfortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is hampering the ethanol industry's further development by proposing to reduce biofuel production targets under the Renewable Fuel Standard," said Johnson. "I hope American-grown biofuels can comprise a significant part of China's long-term clean energy strategy, and I urge the EPA to withdraw its proposal in order to continue to drive demand for ethanol both here and abroad."

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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NFU Statement on National Climate Assessment PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 6, 2014

Contact: Brittany Jablonsky, 701-690-0000
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WASHINGTON (May 6, 2014) -- National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement on the Obama administration's National Climate Assessment:

"The National Climate Assessment only confirms what family farmers and ranchers have been experiencing: global climate change is increasing the occurrence and severity of volatile weather events, which then directly impact agricultural risk, farmers' bottom lines and the entire rural economy.

"The administration's report is clear. Congress must take legislative action to mitigate climate change in order to protect farmers, ranchers, consumers and rural communities.

"I also encourage the administration to heed its own advice by rejecting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's misguided proposal to reduce the biofuel production targets under the Renewable Fuel Standard. The RFS is currently our country's most important strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. The EPA's proposal will not only adversely impact commodity prices and rural employment, but will also move our country further from achieving our climate change mitigation goals."

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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Johnson Discusses COOL, Competition and RFS at House Livestock Hearing PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2014

Contact: Brittany Jablonsky, 202-314-3108
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

WASHINGTON (April 30, 2014) – Today National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson testified before a U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development and Credit hearing to review the state of the livestock industry.

“Farmers and ranchers are proud of what they produce and studies have shown that 95 percent 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 percent of beef operations and 91 percent 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 percent of cattle slaughter in the U.S., and the top four swine processors control 65 percent 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 U.S. 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 percent 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.”

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.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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