Plants Might be ReclassifiedDairy processing facilities could be classified as "chemical plants" in the recently signed Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which requires chemical plants to beef up security. Some dairy facilities could fall into that category because they use anhydrous ammonia in their refrigeration systems. While the law only applies to "high risk" plants, the wording gives the DHS Secretary broad authority to decide which plants are high risk and which aren't. Dairy industry lobbyists are working the Hill to ensure that the dairy processing industry is not unnecessarily swept into that category. At least one lawmaker is sympathetic to their case.
"The dairy industry in Idaho and nationwide has been extremely diligent in taking actions to enhance the safety and security of their facilities," Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) said recently from the Senate floor. "Clearly, there is substantial interest in ensuring the security of our nation's chemical infrastructure, while not forcing onerous and duplicative regulations on one of our most important food industries."
Congress increasingly is focusing its attention on the 2007 Farm Bill, as competing interest groups work to influence its direction. Rep. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, invited former secretaries of agriculture to offer up suggestions at his panel's hearings, then solicited policy advice from academic economists. What's emerging, he says, is a consensus to take a bold step beyond simply extending the 2002 Farm Bill.
"We've been all across this country, meeting and listening to farmers, and we've discovered that no matter the zip code: a farmer is a farmer. Granted, each may have a different perspective, based on commodity and geography, but they face the same kind of issues, similar challenges, believe in that hard work is good work, and wish to instill those values in the next generation of farmers. And we need policies that ensure this continues," Moran said.