Animal Agriculture: Selected Issues in the 108th Congress

Animal agriculture accounts for a significant segment of U.S. agriculture: in 2002, for example, U.S. Farmers and ranchers received $94 billion from the sale of animal products, or about half of all U.S. Farm cash receipts.

Various issues important to animal agriculture have generated interest among lawmakers in the first session of the 108th Congress. For example, under the 2002 farm bill ( P.L. 107-171 ) many food stores in 2004 must provide country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on ground and fresh cuts of beef, pork, and lamb. The House-passed USDA appropriation for FY2004 ( H.R. 2673 ) would block funding to implement COOL for meats. The Senate committee version ( S. 1427 ) lacks the ban.

Elsewhere, lawmakers are keenly interested in the effectiveness of U.S. food safety and animal health programs -- particularly after Canada announced, on May 20, 2003, that one of its cows had “mad cow disease” (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE). The United States responded by banning all imports from Canada of live ruminants and their products. On August 8, 2003, USDA announced steps to begin lifting the ban on some meat products, based on what it said was a scientific assessment of risk. USDA also unveiled a voluntary “Beef Export Verification” program aimed at satisfying a related demand by Japan, the top market for U.S. beef (and pork), for verification that U.S. beef imports are not of Canadian origin. The COOL and BSE issues have rekindled interest in whether the United States should move more quickly toward a universal animal identification (and, possibly, meat traceability) system. Among other issues of interest to lawmakers:

Consolidation and concentration continue to fuel congressional interest in the structure and business methods of agriculture in general and animal production in particular, and in their impacts on producers and consumers.
Large animal production units have stirred concerns about impacts on the environment, including surface water, groundwater, soil, and air.
Meat and poultry products, among the fastest-growing components of U.S. Agricultural exports, have encountered foreign trade barriers that disrupt markets and heighten trade tensions. At the same time, the Administration is negotiating new trade agreements that would impact animal product exports.
Court challenges to the national beef and pork promotion (“check-off”) programs have clouded the future of these efforts.
Among the bills affecting animal agriculture are: H.R. 719 , H.R. 857 , H.R. 2203 , H.R. 2270 , H.R. 2273 , H.R. 2519 , H.R. 2932 , H.R. 3022 , H.R. 3083 , S. 27 , S. 325 , S. 1044 , S. 1103 , S. 1187 , S. 1202 , S. 1298 , S. 1407 , S. 1460 , S. 1626 , and S. 1644 . This report will not be updated.