Committee on Agriculture

Michael Conaway

Nutrition Subcommittee Holds Hearing to Review Duplication and Areas of Unmet Needs in Government Nutrition Programs

2015/05/20

Today, Rep. Jackie Walorski (IN-2), Chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Nutrition held a hearing on duplication and unmet needs in government nutrition programs. The subcommittee heard from researchers and practitioners who have first-hand experience of how the many federal nutrition programs serve families in need of assistance. The repeated theme among the panel was a need for greater administrative efficiency to ensure that target populations continued to be served. This hearing is part of the committee’s ongoing review of the Past, Present, and Future of SNAP, currently known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and formerly referred to as food stamps.

“As the committee continues to review nutrition programs, we must recognize SNAP does not operate by itself,” Chairwoman Walorski said. “While SNAP is the largest nutrition assistance program, it is not the only federally funded program in existence currently. Seventeen other programs work to provide families in need of assistance, and now, a web of overlap is causing confusion for individuals trying to feed their families. Our goal remains the same – let’s find ways we can do better to serve all families.”

“We have limited resources and are committed to making sure that those resources are used as effectively as possible to help families in need,” ​Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) said. “As we continue our thoughtful and thorough review of SNAP, we are constantly looking at how SNAP interacts with other programs and can best help families improve their situation to more wisely use taxpayers’ dollars.”

Written testimony provided by the witnesses from today’s hearing is linked below. Click here for more information, including Subcommittee Chairwoman Walorski's opening statement and the archived webcast.

​Witness List:

Ms. Kay Brown, Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security, U.S. Government Accountability Office, Washington, D.C.  Ms. Angela Rachidi, research Fellow, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.  Mr. Joe Nader, Executive Chef, Ford Field, and volunteer chef for Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters, Detroit, MI  Ms. Sherri Tussler, Executive Director, Hunger Task Force, Milwaukee, WI

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Opening Statement: Nutrition Subcommittee Chairwoman Walorski: Hearing on the Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: Government Duplication and Unmet Needs

2015/05/20

Remarks as prepared:

Welcome to the next hearing in our review of the Past, Present, and Future of SNAP. Today we’ll discuss and examine the government’s duplication and inefficiencies of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Taxpayers and recipients deserve a thoughtful and thorough review of SNAP. They also deserve to know its relationship with other nutrition programs and how that affects families around the country, as well as taxpayers.

I want to stress the importance of today’s hearing and the Committee’s goal to ensure SNAP has a clear mission and operates accordingly. That goal should help Americans; both helping to recognize no one should go hungry and highlighting the value of helping people get out of poverty.

As we heard in the last hearing, our government is not alone in supporting the nutritional needs of Americans. Today, we’ll look inward at how government nutrition assistance programs operate. According to GAO, there are at least 18 different nutrition assistance programs - and together - they spend over $100 billion annually of taxpayer funds. While SNAP accounts for three out four dollars of that today, it’s not alone in providing nutrition assistance.

Over the past several decades, numerous programs have been created to target various populations with little to no regard in coordinating with existing programs or concern for overlap. This has created a web of programs, causing confusion for recipients who are trying to feed their families and difficulties for states trying to administer these programs.

The reality is that a majority of SNAP households are also eligible and receive benefits from one of the other major nutrition assistance programs. In some cases, multiple programs might be funding the same meals. For example, recipients may receive USDA commodity food packages through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, while also receiving SNAP benefits. What impact does that have on a family? Is there duplication while there are still needs that are not being met? We want to ensure every person has access to food and this overlap could be causing confusion in the system, in some cases overlooking individuals altogether who don’t have access to any programs. 

Our job today is to figure out where overlap, duplication, or inefficiency exists. Then, we can more expertly target our limited resources to places with potential unmet needs or weaknesses in the system. Let’s continue this conversation and begin to understand how to best serve all families, because we can always do better.

I thank all of our witnesses for being here with us today and look forward to their testimony.

 

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House Ag Committee Approves Bipartisan Bill to Repeal Country of Origin Labeling Requirements for Beef, Pork, and Chicken

2015/05/20

Today, the House Agriculture Committee approved H.R. 2393, a bill to amend the Agriculture Marketing Act of 1946, by a recorded vote of 38-6. A combination of 68 Democrats and Republicans joined Chairman K. Michael Conaway in introducing this bipartisan bill that will effectively repeal country of origin labeling requirements for beef, pork, and chicken, while leaving intact the requirements for all other covered commodities. 

“This bill is a targeted response that will remove uncertainty and restore stability for the United States by bringing us back into compliance,” Chairman Conaway said. “We must do all we can to avoid retaliation by Canada and Mexico, and this bill accomplishes that through full repeal of labeling requirements for beef, pork, and chicken. I appreciate all the support from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. We will continue working to get this to the House floor as quickly as possible to ensure our economy and a vast range of U.S. industries and the men and women who work for them do not suffer any economic implications of retaliation.”  

“Working in a bipartisan manner is the only way to accomplish real change for our country. That is why I would like to thank my colleagues, from both sides of the aisle, for their support of H.R. 2393, a bill to repeal mandatory COOL requirements for beef, pork, and chicken products,” said Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee’s Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee.  “With the recent decision by the WTO, we must act rapidly to avoid serious trade barriers being enacted against U.S. agricultural products.  This is a good first step towards resolving this issue that has been hanging over the industry for years.” 

“H.R. 2393 represents a bipartisan effort to address serious trade retaliatory measures as a result of WTO’s ruling on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).  I want to thank Chairman Conaway and Livestock Subcommittee Ranking Member Costa for their leadership on this issue,” said Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC) Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee.  

Click here for more information, including the text of the bill, Chairman Conaway's opening statement and the archived webcast.

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House Ag Committee Approves H.R. 2394, The National Forest Foundation Reauthorization Act of 2015

2015/05/20

Today, the House Agriculture Committee approved H.R. 2394, the National Forest Foundation Reauthorization Act of 2015, by voice vote. Introduced by Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee Chairman Glenn Thompson (PA-5), this bipartisan bill will reauthorize the National Forest Foundation Act so the Foundation is able to have the resources to continue its work to ensure U.S. national forests and grasslands are maintained.  

“The National Forest Foundation has a simple mission – bring people together to restore and enhance our national forests and grasslands,” Subcommittee Chairman Thompson said. “Through the Foundation, we are able to leverage private and federal dollars to support our nation’s great forests in a variety of ways. The foundation is an integral component in keeping our national forests, such as the Allegheny National Forest in my district and dozens of other national forests around the country, viable and thriving for years to come.”

Click here for more information, including the text of the bill, Subcommittee Chairman Thompson's opening statement, and the archived webcast.

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Opening Statement: Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee Chairman Glenn Thompson H.R. 2394—The National Forest Foundation Reauthorization Act of 2015

2015/05/20

Remarks as prepared:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The National Forest Foundation has a simple mission – bring people together to restore and enhance our national forests and grasslands.

Through the Foundation, we are able to leverage private and federal dollars to support our nation’s great forests in a variety of ways. These include planting trees, preserving wildlife habitat, surveying streams, restoring and maintaining trails, and the list goes on. The Foundation has also taken it upon themselves to educate and engage the American public on the importance of our national forests, as well as the natural resources found within them.

Since its charter in 1993, the Foundation has been essential in helping to meet the challenges the National Forest System faces. It is an integral component in keeping our national forests, such as the Allegheny National Forest in my district and dozens of other national forests around the country, viable and thriving for years to come.

Simply put, the National Forest Foundation works, and this is a common-sense reauthorization. I urge my colleagues to vote yes. 

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Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway H.R. 2393 –Repeal Country of Origin Labeling Requirements for Beef, Pork, and Chicken

2015/05/20

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning.

We have under consideration the bill, H.R. 2393.  This bill is narrowly drafted to eliminate the requirement for country of origin labeling for meat products from cattle and hogs for which the WTO ruled against the program.  We also eliminate the requirement for chicken, which faced high costs and little if any quantifiable benefits, and asked to have this mandate repealed.  No other products are affected.

At 10AM this past Monday morning, the World Trade Organization announced the fourth and final decision in the dispute concerning U.S. Country of Origin Labeling requirements.  After careful consideration of claims by our most important trading partners that our country of origin labeling program for meat is unavoidably discriminatory, the WTO has again found in favor of Canada and Mexico, rejecting U.S. arguments.

The Appellate Body rejected the US arguments against the panel's findings under Article 2.1 of the TBT Agreement.

The Appellate Body maintained the panel's conclusions that the amended COOL measure increases the record-keeping burden for imported livestock entailed by the original COOL measure.  The Appellate Body rejected US arguments that the panel's conclusions were based on “incorrect hypothetical” scenarios that were not based on actual, or the most common, trade situations.

The Appellate Body also maintained the panel's conclusions regarding the potential for labelling inaccuracy under the amended COOL measure and the exemptions prescribed by the amended measure.  The Appellate Body agreed with the panel that the recordkeeping and verification requirements of the amended COOL measure impose a disproportionate burden on producers and processors of livestock that cannot be explained by the need to provide origin information to consumers, and that the exemptions under the amended COOL measure support a conclusion that the detrimental impact of that measure on imported livestock does not stem exclusively from legitimate regulatory distinctions. In this regard, the panel had noted that between 57.7% and 66.7% of beef and between 83.5% and 84.1% of pork muscle cuts consumed in the US convey no consumer information on origin despite imposing an upstream recordkeeping burden on producers and processors that has a detrimental impact on competitive opportunities for imported livestock.

In regards to Article 2.2 of the TBT Agreement, the Appellate Body agreed with the Panel that an alternative measure providing less or less accurate information, but having significantly wider product coverage, could qualify as making a degree of contribution “equivalent” to that of the amended COOL measure. However, the Appellate Body also agreed with Canada and Mexico that the panel made several errors in concluding that the two countries failed to make a prima facie case that the amended COOL measure is more trade restrictive than necessary.  The panel incorrectly excluded two types of COOL labels from consideration when reaching its conclusion that the amended COOL measure makes a “considerable but necessarily partial” contribution to its objective of providing consumer information on origin.  The panel also erred in concluding it was unable to ascertain the gravity of the consequences of non-fulfilment of the amended COOL measure's objective; while making such an assessment is difficult, this should not relieve a panel from its duty to assess this factor, the Appellate Body said.

As a result, the Appellate Body reversed the panel's conclusion that Canada and Mexico failed to make a prima facie case that the amended COOL measure violated Article 2.2 of the TBT Agreement.    However, the Appellate Body made no finding as to whether the amended COOL measure is inconsistent with Article 2.2.

Finally, the Appellate Body upheld the panel's analysis under Article III:4 of GATT 1994.

This follows on the latest in a series of economic analysis from USDA demonstrating that this failed marketing program adds extraordinary costs with no – I repeat NO quantifiable benefits.

While I have long been a critic of COOL, I agreed upon assuming the chairmanship of this committee that I would wait until the WTO issued its final decision concerning the legality of COOL.  That has now occurred.  The United States has lost.

Some will say we need to keep waiting until retaliation has commenced before we consider our next step.  That is not something I am not willing to do.  We know we face retaliatory sanctions that could have effects in the billions of dollars.  Regardless of the amount, we cannot sit back and let American businesses be held hostage to the desires of a small minority who refuse to acknowledge that the battle is lost.

This Committee now has the responsibility to work quickly to ensure our economy and a broad spectrum of U.S. industries do not suffer the economic impacts of retaliation. 

This bill before us is a targeted response to the WTO decision that removes uncertainty, provides stability, and brings us back into compliance.  No other viable options have been proposed, and frankly, it is now too late in the process to begin discussions which rightfully should have begun when we first lost in the WTO in 2011.

I appreciate the hard work of Representatives Rouzer and Costa  on the subcommittee, and the work of so many other Members —on and off of the committee—in  supporting and cosponsoring this critical legislation.

I urge all Members to support this bill, and now yield to Ranking Member Peterson for his comments.

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A targeted response to avoid retaliation: Bipartisan press conference in opposition of COOL

2015/05/19

Today, House Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) introduced H.R. 2393, a bill to repeal mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements for beef, pork, and chicken products.  Chairman Conaway and his colleagues held a bipartisan press conference with representatives from industries that are targets of retaliation by Canada and Mexico.

H.R. 2393 would amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to repeal Country of Origin Labeling requirements with respect to beef, pork, and poultry, and for other purposes. The Agriculture Committee will consider this legislation tomorrow, May 20, during a 10:00 a.m. business meeting.

“In light of the WTO’s decision and the certainty that we face significant retaliation by Canada and Mexico, we cannot afford to delay action.  That’s why I was joined by 61 of my colleagues in introducing H.R. 2393, a bill to repeal mandatory COOL for beef, pork and chicken. This bill is a targeted response that will remove uncertainty, provide stability, and bring us back into compliance.  I appreciate the support of so many colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we work quickly to ensure our economy and a broad spectrum of U.S. industries do not suffer the economic impacts of retaliation,” said Chairman Conaway.  

“As we have seen time and again, mandatory Country of Origin Labeling is a misguided government policy that has damaged our trading relationships with Canada and Mexico and subjected the United States to trade retaliations. That is why I am honored to be joined by my colleagues in introducing critical bipartisan legislation to repeal COOL for beef, pork and chicken. We have the data, studies, and the World Trade Organization’s experience to demonstrate that COOL is detrimental to our state and national economies, and hurts our nation’s beef, pork and chicken producers and packers.  As such, I look forward to continuing to work, in a bipartisan manner, with Congress to move this legislation forward and repeal COOL,” said Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee’s Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee.

“I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this bill.  Repealing COOL is the right thing to do.  If Congress doesn’t act quickly, the retaliatory actions taken by Canada and Mexico will bring widespread harm to countless families and businesses across North Carolina and the country,” said Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee. 

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ICYMI: Country of Origin Labeling: All Cost, No Benefit

2015/05/19

By Rep. K. Michael Conaway

Via Roll Call

The World Trade Organization ruled against the U.S. for the fourth and final time in an ongoing dispute between the United States, Canada and Mexico regarding the U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) program. Retaliation by Canada and Mexico will soon become a reality, meaning economically devastating tariffs on a broad spectrum of U.S. exports, from meat and fruit to jewelry, furniture and biofuels. Ripple effects will be felt in nearly every industry, every state and every consumer’s wallet. This is why COOL for beef, pork and chicken — nothing more than a failed government experiment— must be repealed.

In 2002, Congress enacted a mandatory country of origin labeling requirement for meat products. Following amendments made to the 2008 farm bill to address questions of workability regarding the original statute, the Department of Agriculture finalized implementing regulations in 2009. In a recently released congressionally mandated study, the USDA estimated it would cost approximately $2.6 billion for the livestock and meat industry to comply with COOL rules. These rules required livestock from outside the U.S. to be segregated through each step of production, raising the cost of utilizing imported livestock.

Canada and Mexico quickly filed suit at the WTO, claiming these rules are discriminatory and diminish the value of their livestock. The WTO agreed and ruled against the U.S. three times. The U.S. is awaiting the appellate body’s fourth decision, expected this month.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which enforces COOL, has repeatedly said COOL is not a food safety program, but rather a marketing program. However, as a marketing program it is a failure. According to a 2012 Kansas State University study, typical U.S. consumers are unaware of country of origin labeling and do not look for meat origin information when purchasing beef, pork and chicken products.

High compliance costs; no increase in demand. Surely if consumers want this information they’d be willing to pay, right? Wrong! Multiple economic studies show no evidence suggesting mandatory country of origin labeling in the U.S. retail meat markets has increased consumer demand. This isn’t shocking given that the label, if you can even find it, provides no useful information because the program has nothing to do with food safety or animal health.

Other academic studies completed after passage of the 2002 farm bill revealed the potential for only a small premium based on origin labeling, but consumers interested in the origin information were only willing to pay if viewed as a food-safety assurance. All meat offered for sale in the United States must be inspected and passed, and bear a label attesting to this authorized by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, thus negating any potential premium or increased consumer demand for COOL.

For decades, many business owners have voluntarily labelled or branded their meat products to distinguish their product and charge a premium. For example, the grocery chain Safeway markets its “Rancher’s Reserve” beef with a voluntary label, and my home state of Texas has a successful “Go Texan” marketing program to distinguish products made in the Lone Star State. Companies voluntarily market their products to add value, but a costly government mandate yields no benefit if consumers are not willing to pay.

Aside from compliance costs, COOL hurts much more than just the agriculture industry. If the WTO rules against the U.S., and Canada and Mexico retaliate against U.S. exports, the effects could be damaging to a broad spectrum of U.S. industries. In June 2013, Canada published an extensive list of U.S. products that could be subject to retaliation. While Mexico has not published a list, news outlets have reported that retaliation from Canada and Mexico could reach $2 billion.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trade with Canada and Mexico supports nearly 14 million U.S. jobs. Ninety-five percent of the world population resides outside of the U.S., and if compliance standards are not met, these American workers will be unable to sell their goods and services across trade barriers, and the U.S. could lose its reputation as a reliable trade partner. American businesses, small and large, can ill afford to pay the penalty for this failed experiment. Other U.S. industries have testified to the long-term effects that trade retaliation reaps. This past March, the House Agriculture Committee held a subcommittee hearing, led by Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C., to look into potential ramifications of the WTO decision. U.S. wine makers discussed the retaliatory sanctions they faced resulting from the U.S. loss in the Mexican trucking dispute and to this day they are fighting to get back only a portion of the market they lost.

In light of Monday’s ruling by the WTO, it is more important now than ever to act quickly to avoid a protracted trade war with our two largest trade partners. After hearing from members of the agriculture and business communities, it is the Agriculture Committee’s intent to be ready with a legislative solution this week to repeal COOL for beef, pork and chicken. We must act quickly to prevent the irreparable damages of retaliation, both to our economy and the trade relationship with Canada and Mexico.

Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

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Bipartisan Press Conference: The case for COOL repeal: Act now to avoid retaliation

2015/05/18

EVENT:

In light of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) ruling against the U.S., House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) will introduce legislation to repeal the Country of Origin Labeling requirements for beef, pork and chicken. Rep. Conaway will host a press conference with members of Congress and representatives from industries that are targets of retaliation by Canada and Mexico. The Agriculture Committee will hold a business meeting to consider the bill on Wednesday, May 20, at 10:00 a.m. 

PARTICIPANTS:

House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC) Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) Rep. Brad Ashford (D-NE) John Murphy, Senior Vice President for International Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Robert Koch, President and Chief Executive Officer Wine Institute Linda Dempsey, Vice President of International Economic Affairs, National Association of Manufacturers John Weber, President Elect, National Pork Producers Council Philip Ellis, President, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and Chugwater, Wyoming cattleman

WHEN:

11:00 a.m. Tuesday, May 19, 2015

LOCATION:

House Triangle East Front Lawn United States Capitol**In the event of rain, the press conference will be held in 1300 Longworth House Office Building**

 

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Full Committee on Agriculture – Business Meeting

2015/05/18

The Committee on Agriculture will meet on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. in room 1300 Longworth to consider:

1. H.R. 2393, a legislative response to the WTO decision

2. H.R. 2394, the National Forest Foundation Reauthorization Act of 2015

 

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There is no media available for this committee.

Contact Information

1301 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-2171
Fax 202-225-0917
agriculture.house.gov


Membership

Ralph Abraham

LOUISIANA's 5th DISTRICT

Rick Allen

GEORGIA's 12th DISTRICT

Dan Benishek

MICHIGAN's 1st DISTRICT

Mike Bost

ILLINOIS' 12th DISTRICT

Michael Conaway

TEXAS' 11th DISTRICT

Rick Crawford

ARKANSAS' 1st DISTRICT

Rodney L. Davis

ILLINOIS' 13th DISTRICT

Jeff Denham

CALIFORNIA's 10th DISTRICT

Scott DesJarlais

TENNESSEE's 4th DISTRICT

Tom Emmer

MINNESOTA's 6th DISTRICT

Bob Gibbs

OHIO's 7th DISTRICT

Chris Gibson

NEW YORK's 19th DISTRICT

Bob Goodlatte

VIRGINIA's 6th DISTRICT

Vicky Hartzler

MISSOURI's 4th DISTRICT

Steve King

IOWA's 4th DISTRICT

Doug LaMalfa

CALIFORNIA's 1st DISTRICT

Frank Lucas

OKLAHOMA's 3rd DISTRICT

John Moolenaar

MICHIGAN's 4th DISTRICT

Randy Neugebauer

TEXAS' 19th DISTRICT

Dan Newhouse

WASHINGTON's 4th DISTRICT

Mike Rogers

ALABAMA's 3rd DISTRICT

David Rouzer

NORTH CAROLINA's 7th DISTRICT

Austin Scott

GEORGIA's 8th DISTRICT

Glenn Thompson

PENNSYLVANIA's 5th DISTRICT

Jackie Walorski

INDIANA's 2nd DISTRICT

Ted Yoho

FLORIDA's 3rd DISTRICT