Congress voted to modernize the nearly 100-year-old Packers and Stockyards Act (P&S) on Thursday. The vote in the Senate took place just before Congress left on recess, a break that will last until after the elections in November.
Introduced by Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C., in July, HR 5883 focused on online and video livestock auctions, and clarified that P&S requirements apply to these sales. A lack of USDA authority in the area had become a concern for many in the industry. This bill makes it clear that farmers and ranchers selling through online and video auctions are provided similar protections to those selling at fixed facility markets. The bill also modernized methods of payment available for use in cattle auctions.
The Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) set the stage for HR 5883, holding industry meetings throughout 2015 that included a nine-stop listening tour. These gatherings were used to gauge support for change and to focus on specifics.
Chelsea Good, vice president of government and industry affairs with LMA, described P&S as an antiquated law, passed in 1921. While slight updates to the act have taken place over the years, there has been no comprehensive overhaul. Good said the two primary changes recommended by LMA were included in HR 5883.
“We need to recognize that banking practices have modernized, and as long as you are following the timelines, surely you should be able to use a quicker form of payment,” she explained.
As such, HR 5883 allows the use of additional payment forms, including use of an automated clearing house, credit and debit cards. No current payment methods have been excluded. Good added it was hoped that by allowing for quicker payments, risks of defaults would be reduced.
LMA President Jerry Etheredge praised Congress for the swift action in passing the bill. He called the changes “common-sense” and said they will help “bring the law into the 21st Century.”
HR 5883 advanced through the House Agriculture Committee under the leadership of Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., before passing in the full House and Senate. Additional cosponsors of HR 5883 included Representatives Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.; Andy Barr, R-Ky; Trent Kelly, R-Miss; Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.; Thomas Rooney, R-Fla.; Jim Costa, D-Calif.; David Young, R-Iowa; Water B. Jones, Jr., R-N.C.; Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; Steven M. Palazzo, R-Miss.; Mike Rogers, R-Ala.; and Robert Pittenger, R-N.C. The Senate companion bill, S 3350, was sponsored by Senators Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Jon Tester, D-Mont.
President Barack Obama has 10 days (excluding Sundays) to sign the bill. Given that Congress is on recess, it is possible HR 5883 could see a pocket veto. This is a veto that essentially happens when the president does nothing, and Congress is out. A pocket veto cannot be overridden, like a regular veto.
LMA’s Good said while a pocket veto is possible in this case she considers it “highly improbable.”
“We are close to that threshold, but not quite there yet,” she said of the bill becoming law.