Federal and state issues keep TAD busy during fall
The Texas Association of Dairymen has been busy this fall representing the Texas dairy community on numerous issues.
As federal lawmakers returned to their home districts during a congressional recess, TAD took the opportunity to discuss with them the labor immigration issues that impact many industries in the state, including the ongoing immigration audits that are happening in the nation’s western states. TAD is monitoring legislative changes to an agricultural guestworker proposal by Congressman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, as well as other possible bills to be filed on the issue, for their possible impacts to Texas farmers. Goodlatte’s bill is the best alternative with a possibility to pass.
Other federal legislation of concern is the upcoming Farm Bill. Congressman Mike Conaway from Midland, who is chariman of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, has stated that the fix for the dairy industry is one of the main issues for the next Farm Bill.
TAD has continued to discuss the needed change to the Margin Protection Program that is beneficial and fair to all dairy farmers. This all has to be done with no increase in Farm Bill funding, no matter what commodity changes are needed. Add discussions on proposed tax code changes, and you can see we have plenty to discuss with our congressmen.
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On the state level, TAD has started meeting with state legislators to prepare for the next legislative session. Even though the next session is not until January 2019, committees are starting to meet to consider issues that could eventually become legislation.
In addition, House members and several long-serving senators in dairy areas are expected to have some tough primary races this spring, and TAD is working to help our friends of the dairy industry.
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TAD also is assisting with the implementation of Senate Bill 1383 that passed last session. The bill will allow tankers to haul more milk per load by running up to 90,000 pounds with a third axle. The larger tankers will have to follow prescribed routes and pay a permit fee to help offset any road impact. This is something no other commodity is able to do, just the dairy industry. The new law does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2018, but state agencies are working now to develop rules to implement the bill.
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TAD also has had to address raw milk issues again following a recall and public health alerts from both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Texas Department of State Health Services in connection with raw milk sold from a North Texas dairy. This has shed light on the need for more regulations governing the trace back of raw milk sales in the event of a health concern.
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To better prepare for a crisis, TAD led its second Foot and Mouth Disease crisis drill. Attending were representatives from across the dairy industry – farmers, cooperatives, transporters, processors and retailers. The goal was to help them understand how an outbreak on a farm would reverberate through the food chain.
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One outbreak TAD is monitoring is an ongoing fumonisin issue in corn grown in the Texas Panhandle and its impact on both dairy and beef cattle. TAD is helping formulate guidelines for feeding fumonisin contaminated corn that has been blended with uncontaminated corn.
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Also in the Panhandle, we recently saw the first instance, in this region, of a community protesting a permit application for a Confined Animal Feeding Operation. TAD was watching closely, but no action was needed after the landowner pulled his application before a hearing could be held by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
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Finally, Southwest Dairy Day in mid October was a great event for the state’s dairy community to come together at the Volleman family’s Wildcat Dairy. There was a tremendous turnout for this event which combined education, information and networking. Thanks to the Vollemans for hosting and to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension for organizing the event.
As you can see from all the activity this fall, there is never a shortage of issues to be addressed by the Texas Association of Dairymen on behalf of our state’s dairy farmers. ▪