Issue Update: Next Steps for the 2018 Farm Bill

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently interviewed by Linda Brekke of the Linder Farm Network to provide an update regarding next steps for the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill, as well as prospects for the Senate bill.

Next Steps for the House Farm Bill

Prospects for the Senate Farm Bill

For additional information regarding these and other issues, please contact RDL & Associates at


Issue Update: 2018 Farm Bill

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently interviewed by Linda Brekke of the Linder Farm Network to provide an update regarding the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill.

The first segment touches upon the dynamics surrounding getting the bill to the House floor and is :56 in duration.

The second segment highlights potential amendments expected during floor consideration and is 1:04 in duration.

The third segment provides an overview of the bill’s status in the United States Senate and is 1:19 in duration.

Dynamics of getting the bill to the House Floor

Potential amendments expected during floor consideration

Farm bill’s status in the United States Senate

For additional information regarding these and other issues, please contact RDL & Associates at


Agriculture Moves to GMO Food Labeling With Exemptions (via CQ)

The United States moved closer Friday to mandatory labeling of foods that contain genetically modified crops or ingredients with the publication of a draft labeling rule, which uses “bioengineered” in place of the commonly used GMO term.

The proposed rule is the outcome of a multi-year fight between pro mandatory labeling groups that argued consumers have a right to information about the foods they eat and food manufacturers and farm organizations that fought mandatory labeling as scientifically unsound and part of a plan to stigmatize GMO products. Comments are due July 3 with a final rule due July 29.

The resulting federal law (PL 114-216) in 2016 gave partial wins for each side. The law gives a victory to backers of federal mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods, while labeling opponents defeated efforts to require all food companies to put readily readable information on packages. Food companies and farm groups also got a federal prohibition on states writing their own mandatory labeling laws but not the voluntary labeling they sought at the federal level.

The law gives the Agriculture Department the task of establishing the process for disclosing information for foods and ingredients for human consumption produced through bioengineering. The law and the rule do not use the term genetically modified organism, opting instead for the term bioengineered as a more neutral phrase.

The proposed rule gives small food manufacturers — as defined through rule-making — the option of providing information to consumers via websites or telephone numbers. Larger companies have three options for telling consumers if they are buying a GMO food product: a label on packages, a symbol to be developed by USDA or bar codes, or other digital means that consumers can scan with smartphones.

The Environmental Working Group, one of the organizations that pushed for federal labeling, said the rule falls short.

“Consumers deserve a simple disclosure that covers all genetically engineered foods, including sugars, oils and the products of modern biotechnology,” Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs, said in a statement Thursday after USDA announced it was releasing the rule. “They should not have to fumble with their cell phones or only get half the story.”

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which fought state ballots on mandatory labeling and for a federal ban on such laws, said the option of providing information digitally is beneficial to consumers.

“Digital disclosure by scanning an electronic link on a package is one of the ways to provide the bioengineered ingredient information required by the federal law,” the association said in a statement.

Devil’s in the Details

The proposed rule would exempt from labeling certified organic foods and foods served in restaurants, bars, food stands, cafeterias or ready-to-eat foods sold in stores for consumption at the location or to-go. Milk and meat from animals fed grain from genetically modified crops would be excluded from labeling.

Multi-ingredient foods that contain genetically modified ingredients that are not the predominant ingredients would not be labeled. The draft rule offers an example of a canned ham in genetically modified corn syrup as not requiring labeling because the ham is the main ingredient.

The rule also would define very small food manufacturers as those with annual receipts of less than $2.5 million and exempt them from labeling requirements, but the Agriculture Department also is seeking public reaction to setting the revenue threshold at either $500,000 or $5 million.

The public is asked to weigh in on the Agriculture Department’s plan to adopt “without further interpretation on what bioengineering means” the definition of bioengineering included in the 2016 law.

The law defines bioengineered foods as those containing genetic material that has been modified through DNA techniques and modifications that “could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.’’ The definition is unclear on whether it applies to ingredients or crops produced through newer techniques such as gene editing.

Much of the draft rule offers the public several options to consider and to offer comment on.

For example, the public is asked to comment on potential exemptions for:

  • Food with an ingredient that contains a bioengineered substance that is inadvertent or technically unavoidable and accounts for no more than 5 percent of the specific ingredient by weight.
  • Food with an ingredient that contains a bioengineered substance that is inadvertent or technically unavoidable, and accounts for no more than 0.9 percent of the specific ingredient by weight.
  • Food in which a manufacturer has decided to use a bioengineered substance as long as it is not more than 5 percent of the total weight of the product.

Horse industry split on bill to introduce more federal regulation (via Capitol Solutions)

It’s a cool spring morning just about dawn on the backside of Churchill Downs, eight days before the Derby. Exercise riders on gleaming racehorses trot past the barns and onto the track for a workout. Some horses have already finished and are being hosed down…they’re so warm, steam is rising off their backs when the water hits.

Here in Kentucky, the horses galloping past are subject to a laundry list of regulations. There are drugs they can’t ever take — like anabolic steroids — and medications they can. There are rules on how the horses are tested and for what and when. If an owner takes his horse from Kentucky onto the other legs of the Triple Crown in Maryland and New York, the major rules are the same, but there are some variations.

And that’s one of the goals of the Horseracing Integrity Act, most recently introduced in 2017 by Kentucky Congressman Andy Barr: to bring all of the country’s 38 racing jurisdictions under the same set of rules.

“We believe that uniform medication rules will not only ensure the fairness and integrity of the sport but it will also help ensure the competitiveness of American thoroughbred racing around the world,” Barr said.

But while just about everyone in the industry can agree that uniformity is important, they all disagree about how to get there.

Eric Hamelback is the CEO of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association; his group is a vocal opponent of Barr’s bill.

“Obviously, uniformity is something we all look to try to achieve,” he said. “But clarify uniformity.”

Hamelback said right now, in the United States, racing jurisdictions agree on the major rules. But there are variations in factors like medication withdrawal time, and who administers drugs to horses.

He said it’s analogous to vehicle laws.

“I would ask you, is there a state in our union that it’s OK to drive drunk or intoxicated, can you name one?” he asked. “No. but are the speed limits the same in every state? They are not.”

Lasix: A ‘Drug’ Or A ‘Medication?’

If you ask the people on the front lines — the ones who actually deal with the horses — they’ll say, sure uniformity is great. But Barr’s bill would do something else, too: ban the administration of a drug called Lasix on race days. And that’s a deal breaker for many.

As the top Derby contenders hit the track for a workout at Churchill Downs, trainers gather on a wooden platform to watch.

“The number one issue is eliminating race day Lasix,” said Buff Bradley. He’s a trainer, who also owns and breeds horses near Frankfort.

Here’s what Lasix is supposed to do: it keeps racehorses from experiencing a condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. That’s when the intense exertion from a race causes bleeding in a horse’s lungs.

Horses that have this condition are called “bleeders,” and in Kentucky, every time this bleeding gushes out of their nostrils,they can’t race for a set amount of time. Horses that bleed four times in a year are permanently disqualified. So there’s a pretty big incentive for trainers to make sure their horses don’t bleed — ever.

“And I don’t like calling Lasix a drug,” Bradley said. “It’s a medication.”

That’s why in the U.S., horses are allowed to get a shot of Lasix four hours before they run. And trainer Ian Wilkes says these days, almost every horse gets it as a preventative measure.

“The cruelty of seeing a horse gush, you don’t want to see that,” he said. “So my thing with Lasix, is there’s no question.”

But Lasix has a side effect, too. It’s a diuretic, and taking it makes a horse drop about twenty-five pounds of water weight. This, some say, can give a horse an advantage during a race or potentially mask other serious health conditions. Shawn Smeallie is the executive director of the Coalition for Horseracing Integrity— a group advocating for the bill.

“It definitely is a medication for horses that bleed,” he said. “But I don’t know what you call it for horses that use it that don’t bleed. So clearly, the fact that a first-time Lasix user, you put it in the Daily Racing Form right, to me shows there’s a performance-enhancing value to this.”

And he points out: race-day Lasix is banned in every major racing jurisdiction outside the United States.

States’ Rights

Besides the Lasix issue, the bill’s supporters say it’s necessary to make sure people are confident in America’s horse racing — and betting — industries. It would move regulation of testing for banned substances under the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees testing of Olympic athletes.

But opponents say it’s unnecessary. That it’s an unfunded mandate. That the industry itself is making progress towards uniformity, and that what’s really necessary is getting all of the country’s testing laboratories on the same page.

“States don’t want to give up their rights and that’s what it really boils down to,” said Terri Burch, the interim director of the Equine Industry program at the University of Louisville. She said the tradition-steeped industry has always been resistant to change.

“Kentucky wants to be able to regulate the way Kentucky wants to. Maryland wants to regulate the way Maryland wants to. New York wants to regulate the way New York wants to,” she said.

A number of industry groups have lined up to oppose the bill, as well as Churchill Downs, Incorporated and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

But there are a number of industry groups and prominent horse trainers that have come out in support, too. That includes the companies that own the Pimlico and Belmont racetracks: the second and third legs of the Triple Crown. 

And Barr’s bill also has something else: bipartisan support. The Horseracing Integrity Act has more than 100 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, though none of Kentucky’s other congressmen have signed on. It’s been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Barr says he believes a hearing is likely soon.


RDL & Associates and Your Organization; A Perfect Match

Interested in an update regarding public policy or the political landscape? Wondering what is happening in Washington, D.C. when it comes to issues of importance to agriculture and rural America?

We are here to help. Please contact RDL & Associates at or give us a call at (651) 247-5458 regarding a presentation to your trade association, organization or company.

Farm Bill Ties Food Stamps to Work, Adjusts Farm Aid (via CQ)

The House Agriculture Committee released its 2018 farm bill Thursday with proposals to reshape the nation’s largest domestic food aid program, consolidate conservation efforts and tweak farm aid.

The bill arrives amid controversy over its focus on shifting funding within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, into work and training programs.

Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, scheduled a markup for the bill (HR 2) April 18. It does not have the support of Democrats, who worry that some states could use the tougher work requirements in the bill to push thousands out of the program by making it difficult to meet the terms.

“The farm bill keeps faith with our nation’s farmers and ranchers through the current agriculture recession by providing certainty and helping producers manage the enormous risks that are inherent in agriculture,” Conaway said Thursday in a statement. “The farm bill also remains faithful to the American taxpayer and consumer. Under the farm bill, consumers will continue to enjoy the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world, and taxpayers will reap the more than $112 billion in budget savings projected under the current law.”

The five-year farm bill reaches into virtually every aspect of the rural economy and into the broader U.S. economy by setting policy for programs and research addressing food safety, nutrition and the environment. The current farm bill (PL 113-79) expires at the end of September.

Committee aides said the baseline or pool of authorized funding is less than the $954 billion available in the 2014 bill, the last time a farm bill was authorized. The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its own cost analysis for the overall bill as well as scores for sections of the bill.

The chairman can probably move the bill to the floor with just Republican votes, but it is unclear whether the SNAP provisions are enough to win support from the conservative Freedom Caucus and pass the legislation out of the full House. Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., said Thursday. “I think we can pass it.”

Another wild card in the offing is President Donald Trump, who signed an executive order on Tuesday directing federal agencies to focus on ways to move participants in means-tested programs such as housing and SNAP into work. Trump could help or hinder House GOP support for the legislation with a tweet.

Conaway said he is focused on finding 218 votes to get the bill passed by the full House. He bristled when told by a reporter that ranking member Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., said the nutrition title will cost Conaway Democratic support and possibly cause urban Democrats to back expected amendments to curb federally subsidized crop insurance when the bill goes to the floor.

Conaway said Democrats would have to explain their actions to farmers, adding that they could choose to help a farm economy that has seen income fall more than 50 percent since 2013 and SNAP recipients work their way off the program by voting for the bill.

Peterson broke off talks in March with Conaway on the nutrition title because committee Democrats said they were concerned about what they have heard about the proposals.

“It makes no sense to put the farmers and rural communities who rely on the farm bill’s safety net programs at risk in pursuit of partisan ideology on SNAP,” Peterson said in a statement Thursday. “Between record low farm incomes, and the escalating threat of a trade war and other market disruptions, farmers have enough to worry about. Breaking up the long-standing, bipartisan, urban-rural farm bill alliance is a dangerous and unproductive step that will only sow division and jeopardize both this and future farm bills.”

Peterson told agricultural reporters on Tuesday that he likes some provisions in the bill but thinks the work-related provisions in SNAP are unworkable.

“The money being put into work training is a sham. Basically, it is designed to be a hassle factor so people will drop out of a program,” Peterson said.

Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., said concerns that the bill is designed to cut SNAP rolls are unfounded. “The nutrition title is about helping those who are struggling,” said Thompson, who is chairman of the subcommittee on Nutrition.

Proposed Changes

The contention over SNAP, which accounts for about 80 percent of farm bill spending, is likely to overshadow other changes farm state lawmakers consider more relevant to their farm constituents.

For example, the popular Environmental Quality Incentives Program would absorb the Conservation Stewardship Program and receive a $3 billion per year boost over the life of the farm bill. EQIP is a working lands programs, which means participants can continue to grow crops and raise livestock on the enrolled acres while also taking steps to protect soil, water quality, vegetation or wildlife.

The Conservation Reserve Program would be expanded from the current 24 million acres to 29 million acres. But federal payments for idling the land for environmental reasons would decrease.

The payment change responds to lawmakers’ concerns that conservation payments in some areas were higher than rental rates new or beginning farmers could afford to pay. The federal government, in essence, outbids farmers and land owners to remove cropland from the market for several years.

The bill would mandate able-bodied adults — ages 18 to 59 — to work a minimum of 20 hours a week or participate in 20 hours of work training or risk losing SNAP benefits.

Excluded from the work requirement would be participants over age 59, the disabled, pregnant women and people responsible for children under age 6.

Other changes to SNAP include:

  • Elimination of broad-based categorical eligibility for SNAP for people who receive non-cash assistance from the federal welfare program known as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
  • Updating limits on savings, assets and car value to reflect inflation. The higher limits would allow people to have more in savings and assets and a newer and more reliable vehicle for transportation to work.
  • Barring states from using a person’s heating or cooling payments received from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program in calculating a standard utility allowance deduction that helps determine the level of monthly benefits. Applicants who are not elderly would have to produce utility bills or other documentation for use in determining the standard utility allowance.
  • Creating a national database on SNAP recipients to enable USDA to better track fraud. The national database would centralize data already collected by states.

Issue Update: U.S. House Farm Bill – Chairman’s Mark

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently interviewed by Linda Brekke of the Linder Farm Network to provide an update regarding the U.S. House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill.

This segment deals with select agriculture provisions and is 1:49 in duration.

For additional information, please contact Mr. Ladd at

Legislative Report from RDL & Associates

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently interviewed by Scott Colombe with of the Little Falls Radio to provide an overview of issues of importance to agriculture.

The interview touches upon the lead up and passage of the omnibus spending package, status of the 2018 Farm Bill, the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) and tariffs.

The interview is 12:33 in duration.  For additional information, please contact Mr. Ladd at

Omnibus Overview: Select Agriculture Provisions

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently interviewed by Linda Brekke of the Linder Farm Network to provide an overview of the recently passed Omnibus Spending bill.

This segment deals with the select agriculture provisions and is :59 in duration.

For additional information, please contact Mr. Ladd at

Omnibus Overview: Section 199A

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently interviewed by Linda Brekke of the Linder Farm Network to provide an overview of the recently passed Omnibus Spending bill.

This segment deals with the Section 199A “fix: and is :52 in duration.

For additional information, please contact Mr. Ladd at