Garrison keeps UDI informed


At the DairyBusiness West press deadline, the fate of the 2012 Farm Bill and dairy policy reforms in the “lame duck” session of Congress remained uncertain. Charlie Garrison attempted to provide some clarity, updating Idaho dairy producers on federal issues affecting them.

By Ron Goble


BOISE, Idaho – Charlie Garrison, of the Garrison Group, LLC, provided an update on key federal issues affecting dairies during the Idaho Dairymen’s Association (IDA) annual meeting in Boise recently. 

Garrison, who represents IDA in Washington, D.C., said emotions were mixed concerning the proposed 2012 Farm Bill, with questions as to what effect post-election politics will have on trying to get it finished by the end of the year. With budget deficits forcing less spending, many in Congress don’t see a need for farm bills, he added.

Garrison said that while farm bill proposals have passed the full Senate and House Ag Committee, there was no indication House leaders would bring the farm bill to the full House floor. Garrison said the House lacked the 218 votes to get a new bill passed, and didn’t have 218 votes to extend the current bill. 

Garrison said the Senate and House Ag Committee proposals have contrasting priorities. Some $33 billion in cuts by the House wouldn’t fly with the Senate, and the Senate’s $23 billion in cuts over 10 years wouldn’t make it through the House. The way the farm safety net is done in the Senate bill can’t survive the House, either, he added

“The dairy industry isn’t holding up the passage of this farm bill by any stretch of the imagination,” Garrison declared. “It’s depending on food stamps and priorities between low-input and high-input agriculture. While we are all concerned about the dairy subtitle, the holdup is over how the various commodities are handled. Direct payments are out and emphasis now is on crop insurance.”

“The short-term extension of existing policy is much less attractive for dairy, and might not be affordable,” Garrison added.

Other issues

• Nutrition programs: Garrison expected a big debate over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other nutrition assistance programs, which make up three-fourth of farm bill spending, at $700 billion over 10 years. A compromise on spending reductions should bring congressional rural and urban coalitions together to pass a bill. 

• Labor issues: IDA has been at the forefront of the national immigration reform discussion as a member of the executive committee of the Agricultural Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR). Agriculture is working on a reform proposal, and Garrison believes there will be a 6-month window to get something done early in 2013. 

ACIR successfully fought to stop mandatory E-Verify legislation, stressing to House leadership that such a program, without a viable ag labor component, would kill agriculture, Garrison said.

• Taxes: With the threat of a “fiscal cliff,” Congress must act one way or the other in 2012. Agriculture is looking at the fact that estate tax reductions expire at the end of 2012. Extension of “bonus depreciation”, income tax rates and deductions, and capital gains rates are all question marks.

• Trade: Garrison said there is real reason for concern over the potential for open dairy trade with New Zealand through a Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. Canada and Mexico are now in TPP talks, as well. Other trade issues included dealing with China, Russia and European Union health certifications; 400,000 cells/milliliter somatic cell limits; and opening the India market to the U.S.

• EPA CAFO: It’s good news the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pulled back after am uproar over attempts to directly regulate concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). EPA has agreed to get their information from state officials. 

• Renewable energy: While EPA denied a petition to waive Renewable Fuel Standards mandates for ethanol, two House bills would eliminate the ethanol mandate and tie increases in gasoline blending requirement to USDA feedgrain stocks estimates. 

Also on the good news front: two of three legs of support for ethanol have been removed – the blender’ tax credit and the tariff on imports.

• To contact Charlie Garrison of The Garrison Group LLC, call 202-986-0237 or e-mail