Congress Returns for Busy January Session to Address Several NMPF Priority Issues
January 5, 2018
Congress returned to session on Jan. 3 with a substantial legislative roster ahead of it, including several items on NMPF’s priority list, such as securing disaster aid for farmers, passing a new Farm Bill and addressing immigration reform. In addition to these issues, Congress also must quickly focus on the federal budget, as a stop-gap funding package approved just before Christmas expires on Jan. 19.
The House took tentative steps on farm policy prior to the end of 2017 by including assistance to dairy and cotton farmers in a larger disaster assistance bill intended to help states and communities ravaged by last fall’s severe hurricane season. NMPF applauded the House package for taking steps to improve risk management options for dairy farmers by eliminating the existing $20 million annual cap on the Livestock Gross Margin (LGM) program. This would enable USDA to offer coverage to more farmers in the current LGM program as well as provide new risk management approaches for dairy producers. As the bill moves to the Senate, NMPF is pushing to include badly-needed changes to the dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) in the final version of the disaster bill. Combined, these actions would help pave the way for making final fixes to the dairy safety net program in the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill.
The government funding debate is an opportunity to address other NMPF priorities, including a solution to the pending air emissions reporting requirements for dairy farms and other livestock operations under CERCLA and EPCRA that have been triggered by a court decision [see later story]. NMPF is working closely with Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry partners to resolve this issue in a timely, effective manner.
Once Congress votes to fund the government past January, attention will shift to several other pressing items for 2018, including the Farm Bill. The House and Senate Agriculture Committees spent much of 2017 holding hearings and listening sessions, gathering stakeholder priorities, and beginning the drafting process. NMPF will continue to work closely with Congress to finalize and secure improvements to the dairy MPP to help ensure the program provides a meaningful safety net to all dairy producers.
Congress is also expected to address legislation on the soon-to-expire Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects from deportation undocumented individuals who came to the United States as children. A legislative solution to this issue may provide an opportunity to focus on other pressing immigration issues, and NMPF will continue seeking all avenues to address dairy’s unique workforce challenges.