Memorial Day Recess -- Call to Action

Congress adjourned for its one week Memorial Day holiday recess without reaching a final agreement on the FY2006 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill that contains the agriculture and seafood disaster relief. Most members of Congress will be in their home districts meeting with constituents, which provides a perfect opportunity for Farmers Union members to urge their members to support the disaster relief.

CONGRESS-- (202) 224-3121. Ask for your senator or representative by name and state. You may ask to speak directly with the legislator’s agriculture aide.

WHITE HOUSE-- (202) 456-1111. A comment operator will ask your state and comment. If all comment line operators are busy, you may be asked to leave a recorded message. At the end of the day, operators compile a report with the positions expressed that day. The information is then sent to the Oval Office and is used to gauge public opinion.

USDA, Secretary Mike Johanns-- (202) 720-3631. Ask to talk to someone on the secretary’s staff about disaster assistance.

Congressional Activities

FY2006 Emergency Supplemental

A House and Senate conference committee agreement was not reached this week, leaving a prime opportunity for constituents to speak directly to their members of Congress during the week long Memorial Day recess. Latest press accounts suggest that the $3.9 billion agriculture disaster relief could be pared down by 75 percent or more in the final agreement. Last week, the conferees were reported to have agreed upon a limit of $94.5 billion for the overall package, avoiding a veto from President Bush.

The House formally named its conferees on Wednesday, which many presumed was a sign that an agreement would be reached. Republican conferees include: Lewis (CA); Young (FL); Regula (OH); Rogers (KY); Wolf (VA); Kolbe (AZ); Walsh (NY); Taylor (NC); Hobson (OH); Bonilla (TX); Knollenberg (MI).

Democrat conferees include: Obey (WI); Murtha (PA); Sabo (MN); Mollohan (WV); Visclosky (IN); Lowey (NY); Olver (MA); Edwards (TX).

Immigration Reform

The Senate passed its immigration reform package on Thursday, May 25 by a vote of 62-36. The week was consumed with debating and voting upon amendments, including two Chambliss amendments to the AgJOBS compromise. The Senate and House will now conference the bill, which is expected to be a difficult task given the vast differences between the two bills. The House-passed bill is focused on border security and workplace enforcement. The Senate bill provides for increased border security, a guestworker program, earned citizenship program and penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Agricultural Workers- From Congressional Quarterly 5/26/06

Senate: Sets wages for an estimated 1.5 million illegal farm workers granted a separate path to citizenship under the bill, along with the more than 40,000 legal guest farm workers on H-2A visas. Illegal farm workers would become “blue card” holders if they worked a specified amount of time in agriculture in 2004 and 2005. If they complete the required amount of agricultural labor in the three to five years after enactment, pay taxes and a $400 fine, they would be eligible for green cards. House: Includes no companion agricultural worker program.

NFU’s policy urges Congress to reform U.S. immigration policy to better meet the labor needs of U.S. agricultural producers in a context that considers the safety and security of our nation’s borders, the infrastructure costs to our rural communities, the inclusion of guest workers in state and federal tax structure, and the human rights of these guest workers.

FY2007 Agriculture Appropriations

The House passed a $93.6 billion appropriations bill on May 23, by a vote of 378-46. The amendment by Rep. Obey to close the MILC-gap was taken out of the bill. The bill includes $17.8 billion in discretionary spending, with $75.8 billion for mandatory programs.

The Senate is expected to begin committee consideration of its FY07 agriculture appropriations bill in early June.

Summary of House-passed bill:

Food Stamps--$37.9 billion Child Nutrition-- $13.3 billion CCC-- $19.7 billion Food and Drug Administration-- $1.5 billion WIC-- $5.2 billion Commodity Supplemental Food Program--$118.3 million Food for Peace (PL-480)--$1.2 billion Avian Flu Preparedness--$80 million Food Safety and Inspection Service--$853 million APHIS --$904 million BSE--$90 million Farm Service Agency--$1.054 billion Agricultural Research Service--$1.2 billion Conservation Operations--$791 million Rural Community Advancement Program--$705 million

Eliminations:

Healthy Forests Reserve--$2.5 million. Invasive Species Grant--$9.9 million. Wildlife Air Safety initiative-- $3 million. Classical Chinese Garden-- $8.4 million. Financial Management Modernization Initiative--$13.9 million. Child Nutrition Program, contingency reserve fund--$300 million (new mandatory) P.L. 480 Title I program: $64 million Ocean Freight Differential Grants: $12 million

An approved amendment will freeze $33 million for a national animal ID system. USDA will be required to submit a detailed plan, including but not limited to, proposed legislative changes, cost estimates and means of program evaluation, to the Appropriations Committee.

Estate Tax

The Senate did not debate repeal of the estate tax before the Memorial Day recess, despite earlier plans to do so by Majority Leader Frist. However, reports suggest that estate tax could be the third issue considered by the senate once it returns in early June. Under the 2001 tax cut, the estate tax will be phased out in 2010, but then goes back to its 2001 rate, with a $1 million per person exemption and a 55% maximum rate. NFU supports estate tax reform, by increasing the exemption to $4 million, with implemented graduated rates. NFU has prepared a one-pager on the estate tax.

Senate Agriculture Committee Field Hearings

June 23: Georgia July 17: Missouri July 21: Pennsylvania July (TBA): Iowa 2 more full-committee hearings "out west"

House Agriculture Committee Field Hearings

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 10:00 a.m., CDT Winona State University Winona, Minnesota Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Dairy, Nutrition, and Forestry—Public Field Hearing RE: Review of the State of the Upper Midwest Dairy Industry

Top Weekly Agriculture Headlines

GIPSA Deputy Administrator Named

Alan Christian was named deputy administrator of the Packers and Stockyard Program at GIPSA. Christian currently serves as the Director of Investigative and Enforcement Services with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

GISPA is currently under congressional scrutiny for failing to enforce the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act. The agency is preparing to report to the Senate Agriculture Committee its progress in correcting lax investigative and oversight behavior.

Japan Plans Public Meetings

The Japanese government has scheduled a series of 10 public meetings regarding reopening the Japanese market to U.S. beef. The Agricultural Ministry plans to use feedback from the meetings to help make a final decision on whether to reopen the border to the United States. Previous expectations that a decision would be made before Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi meets with President Bush in mid-June have disappeared, given the public meeting schedule.

Last week, the United States and Japan conducted two days of meetings in Japan, including delivering a full report on USDA’s inspection of 37 plants that would be approved to export beef to Japan. Part of the final negotiations will likely include allowing Japan to inspect the 37 America plants wishing to export beef.

No Trade Progress

The Doha global trade round talks continued this week in Paris, but failed to make progress on agriculture agreements. The chairman of the agriculture negotiations, Crawford Falconer of New Zealand is reported to impose a “test” on negotiators sometime in June in an attempt to reach a deal. Negotiators have until the end of July to make significant headway on an agreement—if that deadline is missed, chances of reaching an agreement before the expiration of Trade Promotion Authority rapidly decrease.

Energy Risk Management Conference

USDA announced a June 27-28 Kansas City, MO conference to focus on risk management issues and strategies associated with alternative energy production and use in the agriculture sector. The conference also will feature a series of panel discussions highlighting various aspects of the energy and risk management issue. Panels and participants include:

•Perspectives on Energy and Risk Management - Producer Interests: Don Villwock, Indiana Farm Bureau; Joe Zanger, California fruit and vegetable grower; Samuel Scott, North-South Institute.

•Perspectives on Energy and Risk - Market and Lending Interests: Corny Gallagher, Bank of America; Tom Medd, CHS Inc.; George Motroni, NYMEX.

•Energy Success Stories: Bob Foster, Methane Digester Systems; and Wayne Keith, cellulosic powered vehicles.

•Marketing Success Stories: David Spears, Agriculture Solutions, Inc. and Steve Bleyl, CEO, Renewable Products Marketing Group.

A limited number of travel scholarships will be available for qualified participants. For details and program registration, visit www.usda.gov.

Online Disaster Petitions

The Senate-passed Emergency Supplemental appropriations bill includes $3.9 billion for agriculture disaster assistance, including a crop and quality loss provision, a Livestock Compensation Program, assistance for specialty crops and sugar producers, and help to offset rising energy costs. Unfortunately, the House-passed bill does not contain these provisions and President Bush singled out the agriculture relief in his veto threat.

If we are going to succeed in keeping the ag disaster package alive, we need to show broad public support for helping our farm and ranch families. Time is very limited!

Please share this information with your friends and neighbors, and urge them to sign it as well!

To sign the petition, go to the following website:


Senator Salazar (CO)
NFU Talking Points

Texas Farmers Union, P.O. Box 738, Sweetwater, Tx 79556