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Farmers, Ranchers and Consumers Urge Congress to Reject Harmful Appropriations Policy Riders on COOL and Farmer Protections PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2014

Contact:
Brittany Jablonsky, 202-314-3108
Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA, 406-252-2516
Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, 202-683-4905
Steve Etka, Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform, 703-519-7772

WASHINGTON (May 19, 2014) – Today, farm, rural, consumer, labor and environmental groups from across the United States delivered two separate letters to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees urging them to reject any efforts in their upcoming 2015 Appropriations Bill to insert policy riders that would harm family farmers, ranchers and consumers.
 
The first letter, signed by 179 groups, urged the committee to reject any attempts to undermine Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) law and regulations. The letter noted: “Consumers want to know more, not less, about the origins of their food, and using an appropriations rider to deny them that knowledge is unacceptable.”
 
The letter further encourages committee members to speak up in support of COOL during Appropriations Committee hearings and markups. “Farmers and ranchers are proud of what they produce and should be allowed to promote their products. Consumers deserve clear, direct and informative labels. Providing more accurate labels with more information is a win-win situation for producers and consumers alike,” the organizations wrote.
 
The second letter, signed by 168 groups, urges the committees to reject any policy riders that would limit the Secretary of Agriculture’s authority to finalize key protections for farmers under the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 (P&S Act). The P&S Act is intended to protect livestock and poultry farmers and ranchers against anticompetitive, deceptive, fraudulent and abusive business practices by meatpackers and poultry companies.
 
For several appropriations cycles, Congress has blocked the Secretary from finalizing regulations to implement protections for farmers by inserting policy riders at the behest of the meatpackers and poultry companies. The groups’ letter warns that the special interests seeking another rider are engaged in contracting practices that are abusive and harmful to family farmers. 
 
The rider blocks several commonsense and basic safeguards for farmers. The letter notes that the rider would block “a rule that would prohibit companies from retaliating against farmers for exercising their free speech and association rights, including talking to Members of Congress or USDA officials about the abuses they experience” and “a measure to require companies to provide a farmer with the statistical information and data used to calculate the farmer’s pay.”
 
In January, Congress firmly rejected the meatpackers’ and poultry companies’ aggressive efforts to roll back protections for farmers and weaken COOL in the 2014 Farm Bill. The letter urges the Appropriations Committees to uphold Congress’ position expressed in the 2014 Farm Bill by rejecting any riders to limit the Secretary’s authority under the P&S Act or to undermine COOL.
 
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 Continues Legal Defense of COOL PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2014

Contact: Brittany Jablonsky, 202-314-3108
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WASHINGTON (May 19, 2014) – This morning, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard argument en banc in AMI v. USDA. While a three-judge panel had affirmed the district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction on the implementation of the revised Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations, the panel had noted that one issue might warrant rehearing en banc. The Court scheduled today’s hearing as a result. 

The parties’ positions before the Court are essentially the same as what was presented to the panel although additional briefing was sought by the Court on the reach of a certain Supreme Court decision in the First Amendment area.

National Farmers Union (NFU), along with fellow intervenors the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, American Sheep Industry Association and Consumer Federation of America, has participated at both the district court and at the D.C. Circuit supporting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s revised COOL regulation and opposing the preliminary injunction request of the plaintiffs/appellants. 

“The revised COOL regulation is an important step in providing consumers improved information on the origin of the meat products they buy, and it reduces consumer confusion,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The information required by the regulation to be provided is factual and noncontroversial. I am hopeful that the full Circuit will affirm the panel’s prior decision and continue to deny the preliminary injunction requested by appellants.”

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 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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