May 1, 2014
On April 30, the Livestock, Rural Development, and Credit Subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing to discuss challenges facing the livestock industry. The most common topics cited were feed costs, drought, animal disease, trade, and the regulatory requirements that impact this sector of the agricultural economy.
Panel 1 – Questions for USDA
The panel one witness was Dr. Joe Glauber, the Chief Economist at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Representatives posed a number of questions to Dr. Glauber that mostly focused on the implementation costs associated with Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements and the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA) rules. The Renewable Fuel Standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were another common topic for discussion in the context of rising feed costs.
Glauber was unable to provide any specific economic projections of the impacts of COOL or GIPSA, and reiterated many times that although ethanol production may be contributing to rising costs of animal feed, many factors have contributed to the inflated prices. Glauber generally expressed optimism about the profitability of the meat industry, mentioning increased demand all meats and especially for chicken.
Another contentious issue that directed a fair amount of attention on the first panel was the possibility of the U.S. opening trade with Brazil to begin importing beef that could potentially be contaminated with Foot and Mouth Disease. Glauber assured the subcommittee that USDA has conducted a thorough investigation and risk assessment on the issue and has determined that the beef imports are safe.
Panel 2 – Industry and Farm Groups
The second panel was made up of seven representatives of the livestock industry, including spokespeople from Tyson, the National Pork Producers Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, American Sheep Industry Association, and the National Turkey Federation, as well as the National Farmer’s Union.
Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmer’s Union, testified in favor of Renewable Fuel Standards, COOL labeling, and the GIPSA fair competition rules, while all the other witnesses spoke against these regulations as contributing factors to decreasing profits in their respective meat industry.
The written statements from each witness are available here.