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Washington Update

Disaster and drought aid approved
The Senate approved an appropriations bill yesterday that gives farmers and ranchers much-needed disaster and drought assistance, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) reported. The passage of the fiscal year (FY) 2005 bill comes after earlier unanimous approval by the House on Saturday.
The Military Construction spending measure includes $2.9 billion in emergency aid, designated for producers in states that have fallen victim to the most severe drought, flooding and frost. Of the emergency aid package, $2.5 billion has been allocated to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) crop disaster program, and $475 million has been allocated to the Livestock Assistance Program. A portion of the funding, $20 million, has been designated for tree assistance.

Congress passes tax measures
The U.S. Senate passed the American Jobs Creation Act (H.R. 4520) yesterday, after the legislation made it through the U.S. House of Representatives late Thursday, Oct. 7. The legislation includes the Rancher Help Act, which extends the amount of time — from two years to four years — cattle producers have to reinvest in livestock without paying capital gains taxes on cattle sold due to drought or other natural disasters, NCBA reported. The bill also extends Section 179, expensing and allowing cattle producers to write off equipment purchases in the year the equipment is bought without having to depreciate the expense over time. The bill is also expected to remove tariffs from many U.S. exports.
The bill will now go to President Bush for his signature.

Single food agency proposed
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced legislation Oct. 7 that would create a single agency to oversee the safety of the nation’s food supply. The plan calls for the development of a Food Safety Administration, the implementation of a food safety program, and standardization of food safety activities.
Currently, according to a report from DeLauro’s office, food safety responsibilities are divided among 12 agencies, including the USDA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service. If passed, the legislation would provide for a coordinated food safety effort, including regular inspections of all processing plants, categorized review processes for all foods based on risk, increased monitoring of imported foods, and requirements for tracing foods to points of origin.
In the report, both lawmakers said it would be unlikely for Congress to act upon the proposal this legislative season; however, the two stated they would likely introduce the bill again next year, shortly after Congress convenes.

— Compiled by Crystal Albers, Angus Productions Inc. (API) assistant editor

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