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Lobbying D.C.

By Staff | May 21, 2010

More than 55 members of the American Feed Industry Association’s board of directors, including one from Fort Dodge, met to discuss issues of mutual concern and make their concerns known to their legislators during AFIA’s spring meeting in Washington, D.C., area last week.

Top on the AFIA talking points was reforming derivatives trading, which created the spike in commodity prices in 2008 and the subsequent bottoming out of the markets in 2009. Additional issues discussed included food and feed safety and climate change legislation.

Randy Walker, of DPI Global, in Fort Dodge, who has been a member of AFIA’s director board for two years, said he thought the trip was worthwhile.

“We got everything done that we intended,” Walker said.

That included meeting with the staffs of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, both of whom sit on the Senate agriculture committee, to urge the lawmakers to tighten controls on derivatives trading.

Walker said AFIA doesn’t want to eliminate speculative trading on commodities, but is seeking controls to prevent the markets from getting out of hand as they did two years ago.

The House passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act last December. It was read in the Senate in January and assigned the number of S 3217. This is a comprehensive law to overhaul regulations in the financial sector. Among other things, it also establishes a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency to regulate products like home mortgages, car loans and credit cards.

The Senate agriculture committee has jurisdiction over the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates many derivatives. Last April, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark, who chairs the ag committee, proposed legislation requiring all users of derivative contracts to trade on centralized exchanges. Her measure could also require banks to segregate their business in derivatives into separate subsidiaries.

Food, feed safety

Walker said that AFIA is supportive of a senate bill that is friendlier toward farmers than the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, which passed by the House last summer. “We would like clearer definitions on what is considered human food and feed.” The Senate version, S 510 Food Safety Modernization Act, expands the authority of the secretary of health and human services to regulate food and power to suspend the registration of a food facility. It also requires the secretary to track and trace raw agricultural commodities.”

In addition, he said a measure within S 510 that would require farmers to pay a user fee for complying with federal directives should be removed.

A federal law on food safety “benefits everybody,” Walker explained. Therefore, “it’s unfair to require farmers to pay the user fee for compliance to it.

Energy bill

Walker noted that a climate control bill in the U.S. House could lead to loss of crop land if farmers were required to plant trees for carbon capturing. “We don’t want that (loss of crop acres) to happen,” Walker said. “AFIA also opposes cap and trade legislation.”

He explained that the cap and trade bill would put U.S. farmers at a disadvantage to other countries’ ag producers who have no cap and trade limitations.

“All we want is just a level playing field,” Walker said.

He added that since the Environmental Protection Agency has determined that greenhouse gases are a danger to everyone, it is passing regulations that will stymie agriculture production.

“This is opposed by many ag groups,” Walker said, “and we want to see the EPA put on hold until more ag-friendly legislation can be passed.”

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, Ext. 453, or by e-mail at kersh@farm-news.com.

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