House Ag Advances Key Bills

Key bills on everything from boosting EQIP funding and domestic fertilizer production to increasing meat processing competition moved through House Ag, though one remained highly controversial.

The mostly non-controversial bills would boost climate and conservation support, EQIP nutrient management incentives, precision agriculture, U.S. fertilizer production, meat processing competition, and supply chain resilience.

But one bill stood out as highly controversial, and passed by only a near party-line vote—the “Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act,” by Virginia Democrat Abigail Spanberger.

“We have already seen that for two-years now, the Department of Justice is investigating potential violations of the Stockyards and Packers Act, but yet we have no updates, two-years without any movement, and it’s due to a lack of expertise. And the Office of the Special Investigator will help coordinate strategies with various offices within USDA and with DOJ, empowering USDA to put people who actually understand agriculture, in a stronger position to oversee the industry and enforce the law.”

But that was little comfort to Ag Republicans, led by Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, who questioned the bill’s goals.

“Packer concentration has been relatively steady, for decades, and, regardless, this bill does nothing to change that. Maybe it’s supposed to address rising food prices. If so, it seems almost laughable that an unfunded office, with duplicative authorities, is going to solve that problem by filing lawsuits against packers, at the whims of the Secretary. What about a supposed lack of enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act? If so, USDA already has an entire Packers and Stockyards division charged with enforcing the act.”

Thompson read a long list of meat industry groups opposing the bill, while he said the American Farm Bureau’s raised a litany of questions. Spanberger responded, the National Farmers Union and many cow-calf producers back her bill, which has a bipartisan companion in the Senate.

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