US Farm Bill progress welcomed

By Ed Zwirn, in New York

- Last updated on GMT

American meat industry associations welcome farm bill passage
The approval last week by the outgoing ‘lame duck’ Congress of the United States of an US$867bn 2019 Farm Bill, which allocates subsidies to American farmers, has greeted with relief and enthusiasm by US meat and livestock producers.

With President Donald Trump signing the bill into law this week, the certainty injected into the industry through this five-year spending plan is cheering farmers, including meat producers, who have seen steep declines in prices and revenues as a result of the US trade dispute with China.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) lauded Congress for approving the law, which it has done ahead of new members being sworn in on January 3, following elections on November 6.

NCBA president Kevin Kester said: "America’s cattlemen and women want common sense and certainty from Congress this holiday season and throughout the year - they received that through the passage of the Farm Bill.”

He welcomed that the bill will authorise and fund a USA foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank. He also welcomed the fact that that important livestock conservation programmes will be reauthorised and funded. And he welcomed that “certainty that trade promotion and access to foreign markets will remain a priority in the years to come"​.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) was similarly effusive. “Obviously, the Farm Bill is extremely important to American agriculture,”​ said NPPC president Jim Heimerl. “The 2018 bill is particularly good for livestock agriculture because it includes funds that will help protect our animals, our food supply and our economy from foreign animal diseases.”

The five-year agricultural blueprint includes US$120m for its first four years covering animal health and disease contingency actions, requiring at least US$5m-a-year to be paid to the Foreign Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Plan (FAD PReP). Money will also be allocated to a foreign animal disease vaccine bank; through block grants, for US state efforts to prepare for any foreign animal disease outbreaks; and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), which provides disease surveillance and diagnostic support; and,

The bill mandates the spending of US$30m annually to the NAHLN for all five years of the law’s life. Also, in the fifth year another mandatory US$30m will be allocated for all three programmes, with at least US$18m going to the state block grants. The bill also gives the us agriculture secretary discretion to allocate additional funds, as necessary, for the vaccine bank and the disease preparedness programme.

In addition to the animal health and disease-preparedness provisions, the bill earmarks funding for the International Market Development Program, which includes a Market Access Programme and Foreign Market Development Programme that support export markets for US meat and other food products. Under the text of the new law, the programmes must receive annually over the five years a minimum US$200m and US$34.5m, respectively.

Related topics: United States, Livestock

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