Today, Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-TX), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, issued the following statement regarding legislation introduced by Senator Hoeven (R-ND) and Senator Stabenow (D-MI) that ties repeal of country of origin labeling (COOL) to both the elimination of existing market driven programs and the establishment of a so-called voluntary country of origin (COOL) labeling program for beef, pork, and chicken. This new voluntary program would operate under similar rules as the program found to violate U.S. international trade rules.
Replenishes Farm Loan Funds
SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET RENEWS FUNDS FOR FARM LOANS
By a vote of 220 to 211, passage of supplemental appropriations for the current year (H.R. 1141) includes $110 million to support $1.1 billion for loans that farmers and ranchers need to finance the season's work in the fields and pastures, and then pay back at harvest. An estimated 12,000 producers have been left without a loan source since early February, when the loan funds were exhausted. The supplemental appropriations bill also includes $42.8 million for hiring temporary USDA employees to process the loans.
"In many states, farmers applied and were approved for loans months ago, and are still waiting for money to become available. The Administration's supplemental request for this funding is overdue to meet producers' needs for the lending season, but prompt action by Congress will help thousands of farmers stay in business for another year," said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX).
Although USDA projected earlier in the year that its loan program funds would be exhausted long before farmer demand was met, the president forwarded his supplemental request to Congress only a few weeks ago. Both House and Senate acted to provide a bridge in loan funding with the release of $472 million in loan authority with the enactment of H.R. 882, signed by the president on March 15.
Chairman Combest expressed dismay that the president has threatened to veto his own funding request, because Congress is balancing the president's extra spending with cuts in foreign spending. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Combest made the case for farmers penalized by inexcusable delays by the USDA.
"Understaffed field offices, delays in making supplemental lending requests, and 1998 disaster assistance passed by Congress last October that won't get to farmers until June, all add up to a weak and ineffective Administration response to the real pain being suffered by America's farmers," said Combest. "Now we are told that the president has threatened to veto this bill — his own request — in an argument over offsets in foreign aid. I think the president needs to quit the fundraising circuit and get outside the Beltway to talk to people. If he got down on the ground, he could hear what folks out in the country think about foreign aid versus some aid for farmers and ranchers."