Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to review the impact of enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specialty crop growers. Specifically, Subcommittee Members addressed growing concerns that DOL is using the "Hot Goods" provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in an arbitrary manner against producers of perishable agricultural commodities without regard for the inevitable destruction of the product and significant economic hardship inflicted on farmers and their employees.
House Agriculture Committee Passes Groundbreaking Farm Bill
WASHINGTON - The House Agriculture Committee today passed a new Farm Bill that makes historic investments in conservation, nutrition and renewable energy while maintaining a strong safety net for America’s farmers and ranchers. Additionally, for the first time, the 2007 Farm Bill provides substantial funding for the fruit and vegetable industry.
“This Farm Bill provides strong programs that will help American agriculture meet the 21st Century needs of the United States and the world with a safe, stable food supply, nutrition assistance, environmental benefits, and renewable energy products,” Chairman Peterson said.
“We have incorporated some new ideas and important reforms in this Farm Bill, focusing farm program benefits so they get to real farmers and boosting investment in programs that help those who haven’t received benefits through the Farm Bill before.”
“It is a tradition for this Committee to produce a bipartisan farm bill and I am pleased that today we upheld a tradition that enables us to truly serve the best interests of American agriculture and all who enjoy the benefits of a safe, reliable and affordable food and fiber supply. I look forward to continuing to work with the Chairman in a bipartisan fashion as we move ahead with this farm bill,” said Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte.
Important highlights of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2419) include:
· Investing more than $1.6 billion in priorities to strengthen and support the fruit and vegetable industry in the United States. A new section for Horticulture and Organic Agriculture includes nutrition, research, pest management and trade promotion programs.
· Providing farmers participating in commodity programs with a choice between traditional price protection and new market-oriented revenue coverage payments.
· Strengthening payment limits to ensure that people making more than $1 million a year (adjusted gross income) can’t collect conservation and farm program payments and closing loopholes that allow people to avoid payment limits by receiving money through multiple business units.
· Rebalancing loan rates and target prices among commodities, achieving greater regional equity.
· Cutting federal payment rates to crop insurance companies that are making record profits due to higher crop prices.
· Extending and makes significant new investments in popular conservation programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentive Program, Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, and many others.
· Expanding the USDA Snack Program, which helps schools provide healthy snacks to students during after-school activities to all 50 states and continuing the DOD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides a variety of fresh produce to schools.
· Strengthening and enhancing the food stamp program by reforming benefit rules to improve coverage of food costs and expand access to the program with additional funding support.
· Including key provisions that invest in rural communities nationwide, including economic development programs and access to broadband telecommunication services.
· Establishing a new National Agriculture Research Program Office to coordinate the programs and activities of USDA’s research agencies to minimize duplication and maximize coordination at all levels and creates a competitive grants program.
· Protecting and sustaining our nation’s forest resources.
· Making important new investments in renewable energy research, development and production in rural America.
The Committee also approved language that will finally allow full implementation of Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for meat in the Farm Bill. This language is a victory for consumers who overwhelmingly support the program. It includes three categories of labeling, one that indicates product was born, raised and slaughtered in the United States; one that indicates that product was not exclusively born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.; and one that includes products entirely from other countries. For ground meat, products can be labeled with a list of countries where product may have originated.
During the Committee’s business meeting held July 17-19, the Agriculture Committee considered H.R. 2419 and an “en bloc” amendment that included additional important programs that the Committee wants to include in the Farm Bill but that require additional funding.
Copies of the bill considered by the Committee and the amendments that were adopted are available on the Committee’s website.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Farm Bill before the end of July.