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AMI Lauds Final Action on FY99 Agriculture Appropriations

Wednesday, October 21, 1998

The American Meat Institute (AMI) today praised the Congress for passing FY99 agriculture appropriations legislation as part of the $500 billion, FY99 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.

The bill includes $55.9 billion for agriculture, plus an additional $5.9 billion in emergency aid to farmers and ranchers. It includes $617.5 million for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) - a $28.2 million increase over FY98 funds. The full funding for FSIS reflects Congress’ continued rejection of Administration proposals to impose user fees on industry for meat and poultry inspection.

AMI applauded Congress’ rejection of two amendments adopted earlier this summer by the Senate, which would have required mandatory livestock and meat price reporting and mandatory import labeling on beef, lamb and some processed meats.

Rather than mandating new labeling, the final bill includes a six-month USDA study to evaluate "the effects of mandatory country of origin labeling of imported fresh muscle cuts of beef and lamb," as well as the "economic effects of quality grading on foreign and domestic beef markets."

"We are confident that this study will show what we all know: that the industry needs to market its products, not add labels," said AMI President J. Patrick Boyle. Recognizing that livestock producers have suffered from oversupplies of cattle and resulting low prices, Boyle said, "It is easy to grasp for the quick fix, but Congress wisely looked at the long term, negative impact of import labeling and rejected it pending proof that it could benefit both consumers and the meat industry."

"Mandatory import labeling requirements would be perceived by trading partners as a trade barrier and would prompt retaliation," he added. "Exports have become vital to this industry and we must work to preserve international markets, not build walls." He noted that Canada has already taken steps to initiate a trade complaint against the U.S. if import labeling requirements become a reality.

Also in the final bill is a one-year Grain Inspection/Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) investigation of the cattle, sheep, beef and lamb market nationwide. GIPSA must submit a report on its findings to Congress within six months of the investigation’s completion.

"We believe that this study will show that USDA’s current voluntary price reporting system is adequate and accurately reflects the prices paid for meat and live animals," Boyle said. He noted that no study of this magnitude has ever been conducted and that its results will be useful in determining if any fine tuning of the current system is necessary. Two-thirds or more of all negotiated live cattle sales and 75 percent of all negotiated boxed beef sales are reported voluntarily today.

"It is important to keep this effort in perspective: no other agricultural commodity is subject to mandatory price reporting, nor are other industries," Boyle said.

Export Reporting, Equipment Approval Fare Well in Bill

Boyle praised passage of an amendment requiring USDA to conduct a 12-month pilot study "of a streamlined electronic system for collecting export data, in the least intrusive manner possible, for fresh or frozen muscle cuts of meat food products."

"This new pilot will help ensure the timely availability of export information when products are shipped without disclosing proprietary business information and without sacrificing our competitiveness in the international marketplace," Boyle said.

In addition, he lauded language in the bill that would allow the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to certify meat packing and processing equipment. Equipment manufacturers would pay a fee for this service if they choose to participate in the voluntary program. AMS would have to establish guidelines for the program.

AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute provides legislative, regulatory and public relations services, conducts scientific and economic research, offers marketing and technical assistance and sponsors education programs.

For more information contact:
Janet Riley
Vice President, Public Affairs
James Ratchford
Manager, Public Affairs

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