Legislative update: GMOs, trade, immigration and more

Everything from 2016 progress (like GMO labeling) to a breakdown of 2017 issues such as immigration and trade

Legislative Leaders And Land O

Last year was a busy one in the world of legislative advocacy. From a big win on the GMO labeling front to managing a wild election season, there were a lot of issues in the spotlight that had an impact on the food and ag industries.

In the face of these challenges, we upped our game as a cooperative and learned just how powerful our grassroots system can be when we all stand together. With a new administration, new heads of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and changes to the House and Senate Ag Committees, 2017 is sure to present its own challenges and opportunities.

But before we get too far down that road, let’s take a minute to reacquaint ourselves with some of our legislative priorities. Below is a list of several key issues impacting our industry and businesses, along with a quick description of where we left off in 2016 and where we see things headed in 2017.

GMO Labeling

  • 2016: GMO disclosure law passage is a big win for our industry. The law stops states from being able to mandate their own GMO labeling laws and allows food companies to disclose biotech ingredient information in a way that educates consumers on the uses and benefits of the technology.

  • 2017: We are already working with our industry partners and USDA to make sure the rules for GMO disclosure reflect the intent of the law passed by Congress last year. Labels will share truthful and non-misleading information to consumers in ways that does not stigmatize biotechnology.


  • 2016: Congress passed some relief and investment measures related to the ongoing drought in California as part of an end-of-year water bill. While a positive step forward, more work remains to be done to make a meaningful long term difference.

  • 2017: Land O’Lakes supports the Gaining Responsibility on Water (GROW) Act sponsored by Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) that would make changes to water policy permanent, allow for more investment in infrastructure and would keep more water in the Central Valley.


  • 2016: The Transpacific Partnership (TPP) held many opportunities for U.S. agricultural exports and came close to completion but, ultimately, the full, complicated agreement couldn’t garner enough support to be ratified by Congress.

  • 2017: The Trump Administration has indicated a desire to reevaluate existing trade agreements like the North America Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and explore new, smaller bilateral agreements with new trading partners. Land O’Lakes is working with the US Dairy Export Council and other stakeholders to preserve agriculture’s current trade access and work to expand opportunities into new markets.


  • 2016: Given the highly divisive nature of the overall immigration debate, progress during an election year wasn’t possible.

  • 2017: Republicans and Democrats both have pledged to take up immigration reform in the next year. Policy proposals aren’t yet clear but will likely begin with border security measures before moving into other areas. Land O’Lakes will continue to work with the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and our trade associations to support workable solutions for current and future U.S. agriculture labor needs.

Tax Reform

  • 2016: Tax reform received a lot of attention during the 2016 election but took no legislative steps forward.

  • 2017: Tax reform is a top priority for Congress and the Administration. As a co-op, Land O’Lakes will work to educate Congress on the value of the Sec. 199 domestic manufacturing deduction and will support other policies that impact our members and co-op.

Farm Bill

  • 2016: The agriculture industry successfully defended existing farm programs and crop insurance from budget cuts.

  • 2017: Congress will convene hearings to begin discussions for the 2018 Farm Bill. These hearings will provide an opportunity to discuss what changes need to be made to make programs more effective. Land O’Lakes is already working closely with the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) on possible changes to the dairy Margin Protection Program and with many other industry partners to support strong crop insurance, commodity and conservation programs.

Environmental Issues

  • 2016: Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced a bill that would clarify that manure does not count as a solid waste under the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA.

  • 2017: Many rules, including the Waters of the U.S. rule, are likely to be reviewed by the Trump Administration. Land O’Lakes supports a reintroduction of Rep. Newhouse’s RCRA bill and is also working proactively through the new Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN business to advocate for on-farm environmental policy that makes sense for producers.

International Development Funding

  • 2016: Land O’Lakes celebrated the passage of the Global Food Security Act, a law that cements the importance of food security in establishing a stable world.

  • 2017: Land O’Lakes will continue to advocate for international development program funding. At less than 1 percent of the total budget, development programs build political stability, improve livelihoods and develop market opportunities worldwide.

Child Nutrition Programs

  • 2016: Land O’Lakes supported reauthorizing child nutrition programs. Unfortunately, the bills were not passed into law.

  • 2017: Land O’Lakes will continue to work with Congress and directly with USDA in support of improvements to nutrition policy and support for school meals.

As with any legislative measure, these issues will certainly have stops and starts throughout the year. We will keep you posted as specific bills are introduced and/or if we need to mobilize our cooperative system to make our voices heard.

Also keep an eye out in the weeks ahead for follow up stories looking into the new leaders of USDA and EPA, the new makeup of the House and Senate ag committees, and opportunities for you to get involved at the state level.