09.17.15

Senate Agriculture Committee Passes Reauthorization Package for Price Reporting, Forest Foundation and Grain Inspection

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today held a business meeting where bipartisan legislation was passed to reauthorize Mandatory Price Reporting, the National Forest Foundation Act and the U.S. Grain Standards Act.

H.R. 2051, as amended, was passed by voice vote and now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

To watch the hearing, click here.

The following is Chairman Roberts’ opening statement as prepared for delivery:

I call this meeting of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to order.

The purpose of today’s meeting is to reauthorize several important legislative authorities that will expire at the end of this month.

Each of you have the legislative language and a summary of the Agriculture Reauthorizations Act of 2015 in front of you. 

Before I give a brief overview of the legislation, I want to recognize the work of our Ranking Member Senator Stabenow and her staff for their efforts as we negotiated this pathway forward.  Thank you, Senator Stabenow, and I look forward to mutual success on this bill and others to come. I also thank our House partners Chairman Conaway and Ranking Member Peterson for their leadership and passing the three bills independently. Today we combine those bills into one with the goal of reauthorizing these programs before September 30th. 

Finally, I thank the members of this committee for letting us know of your priorities for these programs.  Your input crafted this bill that provides stability for these programs for the next several years.

As I said, the Agriculture Reauthorizations Act of 2015 consists of three titles, including H.R. 2051 – the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act of 2015, H.R. 2394 - National Forest Foundation Act Reauthorization, and H.R. 2088 – U.S. Grain Standards Act Reauthorization.  Earlier this year, the House of Representatives approved these bills by voice vote on the suspension calendar.

The proposal before the committee modifies each bill to reflect bipartisan and bicameral agreements and packages them into one legislative vehicle. The Congressional Budget Office reviewed the proposal and determined it has no impact on direct spending or revenue.    

Starting with Title one, Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting requires packers to inform the Department of Agriculture of the prices they pay livestock producers for cattle, hogs and lambs, and the prices they receive for wholesale meat cuts.

The Department then publishes an array of reports that detail the sale transactions occurring between livestock producers and meat packers.

This information is critical for farmers and ranchers who raise livestock and entities in the meat trade, because it provides them a landscape of the marketplace for livestock and meat and provides information for them to make informed business decisions.

Further, the legislation includes technical changes to swine and lamb reporting that will result in more transactions being captured and more accurate reports.

We also require the Department of Agriculture to conduct a study, with input from the livestock and meat community, on the workability of the reporting program prior to the next reauthorization in 2020.

I understand the importance of these reports to the constituent community, and I strongly encourage USDA to use the authority they have to keep these reports on schedule any day that the markets are open so that livestock and futures markets aren’t thrown into disarray.

The second title of the legislation we are considering today addresses the authority of the National Forest Foundation. The bill simply extends the entity’s authority which expired in 1997. 

Chartered by Congress, the National Forest Foundation is the non-profit partner of the U.S. Forest Service with the primary purpose of helping the agency restore and enhance our National Forests and Grasslands. 

The bill reauthorizes the authority with discretionary funding at $3 million per year, which is consistent with the funding it has received in recent years.

Authority for the National Forest Foundation will expire at the end of fiscal year 2018, making its duration consistent with the authorization periods for most forestry programs in the Farm Bill. 

And, finally, today’s meeting includes an important step in completing the Committee’s work to reauthorize provisions of the U.S. Grain Standards Act that expire later this month.

The changes we make in this legislation are focused on improving transparency and predictability throughout the federal grain inspection system. They help maintain our positive global reputation. We increase the opportunities for public input and Congressional oversight. 

Specifically, we require the Secretary of Agriculture to take immediate action and to notify Congress if there is ever another disruption in inspection like we saw in the Port of Vancouver last summer and to keep us up to date on what is being done to resolve the disruption until inspections resume. 

Further, we require the Secretary to waive inspection requirements if certain conditions are met and report to Congress on the changes made to ensure that situation does not happen again. The Department of Agriculture has a statutory obligation to inspect grain exports, and we won’t let this responsibility lapse again. 

As you can see, the legislation we are working on today plays an important role in bringing transparency to markets and government operations, as well as in bringing partners together to protect our national treasures. 

We have heard from stakeholders, we have heard from farmers and ranchers, we have heard from each other and drafted a truly bipartisan solution. Now is the time for us to act, and I thank you all for your work in getting us here.

With that, I recognize Ranking Member Stabenow.   

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Letter of support from Washington agriculture groups.

Letter of support from national agriculture groups.

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