On June 16th, in a 221-204 vote, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 7606, otherwise known as the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act, which aims to address supply chain risks, lower the cost of food and gas prices, strengthen the food supply chain and ensure robust competition in the meat and poultry sector, and lowers fertilizer prices for farmers. In regards to the bill itself, administrators in support of its passing have stated, “Farmers today are squeezed between concentrated market power in the agricultural input industries, be it in seed, fertilizer, feed, or equipment suppliers, and concentrated market power in the channels for selling agricultural products. As a result, American farmers’ share of the value of their agricultural products has decreased and they often struggle to make sustainable returns.”
The legislation includes the Strengthening the Agriculture and Food Supply Chain Act which would create a task force dedicated to preventing bottlenecking in food supply chains and the agricultural sector to lower food costs. In addition, farmers would receive help implementing nutrient management practices, while also supporting more efficient use of fertilizers. Loan programs would be expanded for farmers to implement precision agriculture technologies – including $500 million dedicated to nutrient management practices, and agriculture equipment, systems, and technology purchasing incentive programs.
While many provisions in the bill held bipartisan support, controversy was drawn by Republicans over the inclusion of the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act, which would create a new position at USDA to investigate broad anticompetitive matters. “The new USDA Special Investigator would focus on preventing shortages, enforcing America’s antitrust laws, and holding bad actors in the meat industry accountable,” says lead sponsor Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association voiced concerns about the additional expenses related to the act, but other organizations, such as the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, have expressed nothing but support for the bill and its companion legislation currently floating through the Senate.
Another major article within the bill is the Year-Round Fuel Choice Act which would permanently allow the year-round sale of E15, a biofuel alternative that lowers the average cost of fuel and can cost as much as forty cents per gallon less than regular gasoline. Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, says, “By expanding the availability of cleaner, more-affordable ethanol blends, this legislation will help deliver immediate economic relief to American families who are feeling unprecedented pain at the pump.”