HTML _ IB97050 - Agricultural Issues in the 105th Congress
28-Dec-1998; Jean Yavis Jones; 16 p.

Abstract: After almost 2 years of record highs, farm prices for many commodities began to decline in 1997. Until then wheat, feedgrains, cotton, and oilseed farmers were enjoying the benefits of high prices, expanding markets, and federal ¨market transition¨ (or ¨contract¨) pay-ments provided under the 1996 farm law. These lump sum payments to farmers, which decline over 7 years, are guaranteed regardless of farm prices. They replaced earlier target price support payments that were tied to individual crops and rose or fell conversely with market prices. Marketing loan rates, also linked to farm prices, were capped at the 1995 level by the 1996 law. The 105th Congress took several actions to provide income relief for farmers. The Emergency Farm Financial Relief Act, P.L. 105-228, enacted on August 12, 1998, provided early release in October 1998 of $5.5 billion in FY1999 contract payments to farmers. The Congress approved $4.2 billion in emergency farm aid as part of a $60 billion FY1999 agriculture appropriation bill (H.R. 4101). This bill was vetoed by the President because it did not contain the $7.3 billion farm aid package advanced by Senate Democrats, which also called for removing the farm bill loan rate cap, at a cost of some $5 billion. With no annual appropriation enacted, USDA programs were funded under stopgap spending measures until the enactment of a final, omnibus FY1999 appropriation measure (P.L. 105-277). It contained some $5.9 billion in emergency aid to farmers, but left the loan caps in place. The USDA also approved the early release (in October) of some $1.3 billion in FY1999 Conservation Reserve Program payments to farmers. In the trade arena, despite backing from many farm groups, the House rejected fast-track legislation (H.R. 2621) to expedite consideration of trade agreement implementing legislation. Congress, however, approved legislation (P.L. 105-194) exempting credit guarantees for agriculture from U.S. sanctions on India and Pakistan. Farm legislators also helped defeat a House attempt on July 22, to stop U.S. trade with China. U.S. and Canadian officials continue to try to resolve disputes over Canadian grain and livestock transport in the United States. And, U.S. cattle producers have filed an anti-dumping petition against Canada and Mexico, alleging losses due to unfair live cattle imports. The USDA is considering a variety of options for shoring up pork prices, which have plummeted as a result of over production. In other areas, after enacting a major tax relief measure in 1997 (P.L. 105-34), the House passed another tax bill (H.R. 4579) that would have benefitted farmers. A modified version of this bill, containing some $600 million in tax breaks for farmers was in the finally enacted omnibus appropriation law (P.L. 105-277). Tobacco settlement legislation (S. 1415) containing payments to growers was pulled in June 1998 after several weeks of Senate debate. Other actions were taken on: a law (P.L. 105-185) reforming the agriculture research system and restoring food stamp benefits to certain legal aliens; USDA proposed milk marketing order reforms and national standards for organically produced foods; legislation proposing country-of-origin labeling, and a child nutrition reauthorization bill (H.R. 3874, P.L. 105-336). [read report]

Topics: Agriculture

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