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111th Congress Comes to a Close; New Congress Begins This Week

January 5, 2011

The final month of the 111th Congress witnessed a flurry of last-minute activity, which included estate tax reform, a major reauthorization of the school lunch program, and landmark food safety legislation. As part of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, Congress set the estate tax exemption level at $5 million ($10 million for couples), and the rate at 35 percent.

This development is vital for many of the nation’s farmers and ranchers, as the exemption level and rate were to reset at $1 million and 55 percent, respectively, in 2011. Congress also successfully passed a major child nutrition law to increase funding for the school lunch program and allow for nutritional standards to be set for all foods sold in schools, while also clearly recognizing the vital importance of milk consumption for our nation’s youth. Furthermore, Congress sent the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act to the President’s desk, marking the first significant reform since 1938 of the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of the food supply. President Obama signed it Tuesday.

There were also a few key issues that were not tackled before the 111th Congress concluded. Even though there was a late push by the Administration and several key Congressional leaders, immigration reform was stopped short by procedural hurdles. Legislation to repeal 1099 tax provisions also fell a few votes short, leaving many farmers and ranchers vulnerable to new, burdensome tax filing requirements.

On Wednesday this week, Ohio Congressman John Boehner was sworn in at the new Speaker of the House, signaling the start of the 112th legislative session. NMPF will continue its efforts in the coming months to work with leaders in both parties to implement new dairy policy.