Members of the House-Senate Conference Committee on the fiscal year 2012 ag appropriations bill have been named and according to Kansas Senator Jerry Moran, have already met once. He says staff members have made a number of tentative decisions and now the members are having conversations about the issues of importance to them. He says there's still quite a bit of work ahead of the conference committee members:
“I have an expectation that the conference report will be concluded, that there will be one. There was initial thought that it would happen this next week, and included in that would be the continuing resolution to fund the government in November and December, it doesn’t appear to me that this conference is going to come together that quickly and so this is going to linger for weeks yet to come.”
Moran notes the so-called GIPSA rule was addressed by the U.S. House in its ag appropriations measure and he's not sure how that issue will be resolved:
“The House is taking the position that ‘we’re going to take a step back and the Department of Agriculture should not implement those GIPSA rules, the Senate did not speak this issue, I went to the Senate floor to talk about what I’ve asked Secretary Vilsack to commit to, which he has not done, is that when the economic analysis is done that the comment period is still open so that we can make, we as members of congress but more importantly the livestock industry, can make an analysis and understand that analysis and make comments again before the Department finalizes its rules. That just seems like good government, the smart thing to do is, why do the economic analysis if you already have the rules in place.”
Moran says the conferees also have a chance to address USDA's plan to conduct an animal welfare scientific forum that he believes would provide the Humane Society of the United States a platform to espouse its anti-agricultural views:
“We have the opportunities of course, if we can get the votes, to say that no money can be spent to do certain things, and we’re always looking at crazy ideas that this department or any other government agency comes up with, that congress can say ‘you can’t do this because we’re not giving you the money'.”
According to Moran, a USDA memo issued last month indicates HSUS would set the agenda for the event.