This week saw long-awaited progress for the farm bill, now formally known as The Agricultural Act of 2014. The bill advanced from conference committee Monday and was approved Wednesday by the House of Representatives on a vote of 251 to 166. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday, Feb. 4.
The new farm bill fully funds the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, which represent important investments in U.S. agricultural exports. The legislation also directs USDA to develop a reorganization plan that includes a new undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs – a provision strongly supported by USMEF.
The farm bill does not repeal or make significant changes to the statute mandating country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements for meat products. Instead, the bill requires USDA to conduct an economic analysis of its COOL regulations. These regulations are the subject of a WTO complaint by Canada and Mexico that could result in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. beef and pork exports if the WTO finds that the revised version of USDA’s COOL regulations do not comply with WTO requirements. The WTO has scheduled a meeting of a compliance panel on Feb. 18-19 in Geneva to determine whether the revisions that USDA made to the COOL regulations brought the United States into compliance with the requirements of the WTO agreement.