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WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Turkey Federation (NTF) here made sure that legislators heard the industry's desires in the writing of the next Farm Bill, by participating in two separate hearings about the bill.
Yesterday, NTF chairman Mike Briggs of Willow Brook Foods spoke in Cape Girardeau, Mo., while Sonny Meyerhoeffer from the Virginia Poultry Cooperative provided comment in Staunton, Va. Both urged the House agriculture committee members to consider feed costs, environmental issues, international trade, and research when legislators write the next Farm Bill.
"In many ways, the industry's outlook is bright, but there are challenges that could darken our horizon," said Briggs. "By building on the success of the last two Farm Bills, Congress can help our industry meet those challenges."
"The turkey industry today is vibrant," said Meyerhoeffer. "American turkey growers will raise nearly 270 million turkeys this year, which will be processed into five billion pounds of read-to-cook turkey meat valued at almost $8 billion."
With corn being a critical ingredient in a turkey's diet, the industry executives recommended decoupling support payments and allowing farmers to respond to the growing world demand for corn. It is also important to expand land for production by ensuring that environmentally sensitive land is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, the executives said.
The turkey industry accepts agricultural environmental laws as part of its responsibility to be good stewards of the land. However, in the oral comments, both industry spokespersons said that the new Farm Bill needed to help with compliance.
One example would be to increase Environmental Quality Incentive Program Funding (EQIP) to the maximum extent possible, which should include increasing the percentage of EQIP funds for poultry operations and examining ways EQIP funding could be used to facilitate projects that turn animal waste into fuel, they said.
Finally, agriculture research is vital to the industry's ability to provide safe, wholesome food, the industry representatives claimed. For example, USDA has played a vital role in helping U.S. poultry growers prevent the Asian strain of avian influenza (AI). Congress was thus urged to maintain or increase research funding for food safety and animal disease control.