Sept. 29, 2004
STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
By Mr. INHOFE (for himself, Mr. Hagel, Mr. ROBERTS, Mr. Burns, Mr. Cornyn, Ms. Cantwell, Mrs. Boxer, Mr. NELSON of Nebraska and Mr. Craig):
S. 2866. A bill to amend the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 to clarify the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture and the Commodity Credit Corporation to enter into memorandums of understanding with a State regarding the collection of approved State commodity assessments on behalf of the State from the proceeds of marketing assistance loans; read the first time.
Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I rise today to proudly introduce the Commodity Assessment Protection and Reform Act.
This legislation fixes a potential problem for our wheat producers in the State of Oklahoma as well as other wheat producing states.
As Government encourages agricultural producers to become more responsible for their own marketing and research programs, it is vital that we give producers the ability to do just that.
To enhance marketing and research of agricultural commodities, farm programs for many years have authorized the use of marketing loans for some commodities. Producers receive cash loans using the commodity as collateral. Marketing loans allow the producer to market crops while also providing cash to pay outstanding bills.
These marketing and research programs provide many benefits: increasing commodity category sales; creating a viable, thriving marketplace for individual businesses; providing greater opportunity for brands and businesses to compete for their share of the category; protecting small producers from being severely disadvantaged against large competitors that could undermine industry growth; building a more favorable economic environment-better prices for producers, more revenue growth for processors; reducing dependence on taxpayer dollars for support payments and government administration in times of economic hardship; providing an open, free flow of consumer information to help consumers make informed choices about purchasing these commodities; and providing ongoing investments in research to ensure product quality, safety and nutrition expectations.
For wheat, this program is administered by the individual State wheat commissions and is not a national program. In Oklahoma, wheat producers have the option to opt out of the program if they choose.
Wheat producers in Oklahoma, and in many other States, have supported this system for collecting assessments on the commodities they produce. For wheat placed under loan with the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, Commodity Credit Corporation, CCC, the CCC has collected these grower-funded assessments. Again, these assessments are used to fund research and marketing programs.
The loan placement is considered to occur at the first point of sale. The CCC has supported State commissions in the collection of grower-funded assessments for many years. These State assessments have been collected under a cooperative agreement defined in a Memoranda of Understanding between individual State commodity commissions and the USDA.
Recently USDA determined that if the state commission changes the assessment rate, USDA would no longer honor a Memorandum of Understanding between a state commodity commission and USDA. In several states, wheat growers voted to increase their support of commodity activities by approving an assessment increase. State wheat commissions whose growers have voted for increased funding are faced with no viable means of collecting assessments on the commodity under the loan program.
USDA claims that it lacks statutory authority to recognize these new or modified Memoranda of Understanding. The decision by USDA not to honor amended Memoranda of Understanding could cause serious financial harm to the work of the commissions, which support a range of activities from research to market development.
The use of these funds is very important for the expanding markets and increasing research. They become even more critical when wheat prices are low.
This decision by USDA to no longer honor these Memoranda of Understanding has caused great hardship for a number of wheat states whose producers have voluntarily voted to give more of their own money to programs they deem important.
In order to correct this problem, I am introducing legislation that will allow USDA to continue to collect approved State commodity assessments. This legislation authorizes the USDA to recognize a Memorandum of Understanding when a State has increased or modified its assessment rate, as well as recognize Memoranda of Understanding that have been terminated prior to the date of enactment of this legislation.
According to USDA, the cost of implementing this legislation would be minimal, since the collection procedure is already in place and will only require a change in the factor of the assessment.
I would like to note that the House Agriculture Committee passed this bill unanimously last week through the excellent work of my friends GEORGE NETHERCUTT and BOB GOODLATTE.
The House Agriculture Committee informs me that their intention is to achieve full House passage of this legislation by suspension of the rules next week. I want to make a special plea to the Senate to pass this simple, much-needed, thoroughly bipartisan, and noncontroversial legislation in the 108th Congress. Toward that end, I request that the bill be held at the desk per Rule 14.
Again, as Government encourages agricultural producers to become more responsible for their own marketing and research programs, this common sense legislation is needed to ensure the continued success of these programs.
At this time I thank the people in Oklahoma who have contacted me in support of this legislation: Jeramy Rich with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Ray Wulf with the Oklahoma Farmers Union, Tim Bartram with the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association, Mark Hodges with Oklahoma Wheat Commission, Mike Kubicek with the Oklahoma Peanut Commission, as well my Legislative Assistant Mike Ference who assisted me with this legislation. I appreciate all of their support.
I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows: