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House Democrats unveil ‘lower food and fuel costs’ bill

The House could vote as early as next week on an omnibus bill that would allow summertime sale of E15, create a special investigator’s office at the USDA to enforce fair-play laws in meatpacking, and help farmers adopt so-called precision agriculture technology. The legislative amalgam was titled the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act, though the senior Republican on the House Agriculture Committee said it would accomplish neither.

The Rules Committee, the gatekeeper to the House floor, was scheduled to discuss the bill on Monday, a signal that Democratic leaders intend to call a vote soon. HR 7606 originally focused on the special investigator’s office and was the strongest livestock reform bill to advance in this session of Congress.

The texts of six other bills were added to the special investigator bill, including HR 4410, which would create a permanent waiver for the sale of E15, gasoline that is 15% ethanol, during the summer. The omnibus bill includes the so-called Butcher Block bill sponsored by Rep. Dusty Johnson, South Dakota Republican, for a USDA loan program to help new meat processors go into business and expand slaughter capacity.

Other sections of the bill provide additional funding or allow a larger USDA cost-share for producers who want to adopt or acquire precision agriculture technology.

Most of the legislation in the revamped HR 7606 was approved last month by the House Agriculture Committee, some of it by voice vote, although the vote on the special investigator was a 27-21 roll call that followed party lines. “This bipartisan group of bills will collectively address high prices facing our agriculture producers and our nation’s consumers,” said House Agriculture chairman David Scott at the time.

“Let’s be clear: This bill is a charade that does nothing to lower the food and fuel costs currently hammering American families, consumers, and producers,” said Rep. Glenn Thompson, senior Republican on the Agriculture Committee. He said the administration was “stymieing domestic agriculture production.”

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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