Chairman Frank Lucas issued the following statement after the four principals met today to discuss outstanding issues relating to the farm bill.
Committee Clears Dairy Reform Legislation
Today the House Committee on Agriculture approved H.R. 1402 by a vote of 32-15 sending to the Full House legislation requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to implement the Class I milk price structure known as Option 1-A as part of the reform of Federal Milk Marketing Orders.
"There is no doubt that dairy reform is a contentious issue on which virtually every region in the United States has a different perspective," said Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX). "We gave a fair hearing to all sides and I'm sure that their views will be revisited when the full House considers this legislation."
In passing H.R. 1402, the Committee approved three amendments in addition to a technical modification offered by Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA). The first, sponsored by Representatives Gil Gutknecht (R-MN) and Collin Peterson (D-MN) provides a one-year extension of the milk price support program scheduled to expire on December 31, 1999.
The Committee also adopted an amendment from Representative Cal Dooley (D-CA) which would allow individual dairy producers to voluntarily forward contract their milk under the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) system — giving them a new risk management tool previously denied to them.
Finally, an amendment from Ranking Committee Member Charlie Stenholm (D-TX) would require USDA to undergo a formal rulemaking process, including a public hearing, with regard to Class III (cheese) and Class IV (powder) milk. USDA is directed to issue a final rule that accurately reflects producer comments. In addition, Stenholm's amendment reduces the make allowance processors receive under the FMMO system. None of these changes effect the October 1, 1999 for FMMO reform implementation.
"The Committee's action today in support of Option 1A and the amendment I offered to further restore producers' income is an important step," said Stenholm. "Hopefully, the Committee's broad bipartisan support for sensible changes in the Administration's ill-advised proposal will lead to expeditious action by the full House."
Combest represents Texas' 19th Congressional District which includes the Panhandle, South Plains, and Permian Basin. Stenholm represents Texas' Seventeenth Congressional District, a sprawling agricultural district in west central Texas.