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House Judiciary amends farm bill dairy provision

In a move with implications in the debate over the dairy provisions of the farm bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee, the House Judiciary Committee today added an amendment to ensure regulations imposed under the bill are subject to promulgation under the Administrative Procedure Act and the Congressional Review Act.

The committee, which has jurisdictions over those regulatory acts, also voted to send the bill to the full House with no recommendation on whether it should be passed.

The version of the bill reported by the House Agriculture Committee last month waived this requirement, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., noted in a news release.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
Goodlatte said he believes that the public deserves an opportunity to comment on the regulations, but he added that the amendment does not satisfy his concerns about the Dairy Market Stabilization program.

“To be clear, while this amendment makes important changes to preserve the rulemaking and review requirements under the Administrative Procedure Act and the Congressional Review Act, it does not solve what many believe are the fundamental problems with the Dairy Market Stabilization Program,” Goodlatte said in the news release.

“I do not believe that the Dairy Market Stabilization Program and supply management for dairy should be a part of this legislation, and I will address this when the legislation is brought to the House floor,” Goodlatte said. “However, at minimum Congress should ensure that those affected by this intrusive program have the right to comment on regulations governing the program and that Congress also reserves the right to review the program.”

The National Milk Producers Federation, which backs the dairy proposal, said today that the amendment is “a reasonable compromise to get the reform program approved.”

Jerry Kozak

Jerry Kozak
“This is the latest attempt at compromise by Congressman Goodlatte on a program that has been approved twice by the House Agriculture Committee and that dairy farmers overwhelmingly support,” said NMPF President and CEO Jerry Kozak.

“It’s time to end the divisiveness and approve reform of the federal dairy program,” Kozak said. “For that reason, we see today’s vote, which appears to accept that the Dairy Security Act (DSA) will become law, as a good compromise.”

Kozak noted that Goodlatte tried unsuccessfully to modify the DSA in the Agriculture Committee both this year and in 2012. That amendment would have eliminated the program’s market stabilization provisions, which give farmers the option of temporarily scaling back their milk production or contributing a portion of their milk check to purchase dairy products to feed the needy in order to bring supplies more in line with demand, Kozak said.

“While this is not the approach we chose, we see it as acceptable,” said Kozak. “The important thing is to get dairy reform enacted for the nation’s milk producers. If it requires this amendment to do that, we can live with that.”

The International Dairy Foods Association, which opposes the dairy program in the farm bill, said that the amendment “would require USDA to examine the impacts of proposed dairy policy in several areas — including consumer prices, the cost of USDA nutrition programs, competitiveness within the dairy industry and the potential for dairy market growth — prior to adopting interim and final regulations.”

Ruth Saunders

Ruth Saunders
Ruth Saunders, an IDFA vice president, told The Hagstrom Report that her group was pleased by the addition of the amendment, but still expects Goodlatte to offer an amendment on the House floor.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who wrote the dairy program, did not respond to requests for comment.

The National Conference of Farmer Co-operatives said that the farm bill needs to pass.

“Diversions that keep us from our end goal — to help farmers, ranchers, rural communities, and those less fortunate who need assistance — only serve to undermine the work of Chairman Lucas and the House Agriculture Committee,” said NCFC President Chuck Conner.