U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson - 2nd District of Idaho
U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson - 2nd District of Idaho

Simpson Works to Keep Dairy in Schools
Congressman Mike Simpson recently joined the rest of the Idaho congressional delegation in sending a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack opposing new rules limiting the type of milk schools can serve as part of their school lunch programs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released new rules pursuant to the Child Nutrition Act that eliminate flavored milk in schools unless it is fat-free and state that plain milk must be either low-fat or fat-free. Unfortunately, across the country most school age children are already drinking less milk, especially when they reach middle school, junior high and high school.  This limitation on low fat flavored milk in the final reimbursable school meal rule puts milk at a considerable disadvantage relative to competing beverages in schools. 

“Kids like, and drink, low fat flavored milk, which provides more nutrition than most beverage options in school vending machines,”  Simpson said.  "I'm concerned that these new rules will actually hurt efforts to teach kids healthy eating habits, rather than help."

The letter asks the Secretary to consider the following recommendations when implementing further requirements in the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act: 

  • Allow low fat and non-fat milk, both flavored and plain, consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and recommended by the Institute of Medicine. 
  • Allow a variety of serving sizes for a la carte milk, both inside the cafeteria and in vending machines found throughout schools.
  • Allow yogurt, single serving cheeses, and other dairy products consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that recommend three cups per day of fat free of low fat milk and milk products for adults and children ages nine to eighteen.  Encourage reduced fat and lower sodium options consistent with the Dietary Guidelines.  Naturally nutrient rich foods such as dairy products should not be subjected to standards that lead to decreased consumption of dairy products.

Congressman Simpson will continue to oppose federal regulations to restrict milk and dairy consumption in Idaho schools.

Simpson Grills EPA Administrator over EPA Regulations, Wetlands Guidance
Congressman Mike Simpson, who chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, scrutinized the EPA’s budget request for the coming fiscal year during a subcommittee hearing on February 29, 2012.  Simpson targeted the EPA’s regulatory agenda, taking issue with the way the agency ways costs and benefits of proposed regulations and the impact that they have on the economy. 

Simpson expressed long-standing concern about the guidance EPA issued last year regarding which waters are subject to EPA regulation under the Clean Water Act, an issue that has troubled farmers and water users for years.

“I’m concerned about this guidance because many of the groups advocating for it want EPA to control all the waters of the United States.  Many of us in the west think that the current ‘navigable waters’ definition is the right definition,” said Simpson.  “It is not a matter of whether or not we should protect waters from degradation but of who is protecting them.  I think that is a responsibility of the states.”

Simpson Opposes Proposals to Ban Youth from Farm Work
Congressman Mike Simpson has expressed his concern about a proposed Department of Labor rule that would ban hired youth younger than sixteen from doing certain types of farm work.  The proposal would ban so-called "hazardous" work, including
operating tractors or working with livestock.

“I recognize the critical importance of youth labor to farm productivity," Simpson said. “I am also concerned about the impact that these rules could have on valuable programs like 4-H and FFA."

In December 2011, Congressman Simpson signed a letter to Secretary Solis expressing opposition to the Department of Labor’s proposal to limit the ability of farmers and ranchers to hire youth to work in agriculture.  The “parental exemption” portion of the rule would prohibit youth from doing various farm activities on farms of which they don’t reside. 

"With this rule, DOL has attempted to narrow the definition of the family farm so that chores could be considered illegal unless the farm on which the youth worked was wholly owned by his or her parents," said Simpson.  "As we all know, modern farms exist under a myriad of ownership and operational structures.  It’s short-sighted to restrict families in their efforts to pass on generational knowledge and the hands-on learning that is so critical to the survival of the agricultural industry."

In response to concerns about the proposal, DOL recently announced that they will re-propose the “parental exemption” of the rule. It is expected that DOL will revise and the parental exemption portion and reopen for comments in early summer.

2012 Farm Bill Update from Congressman Simpson:
The House Agriculture Committee continues to work on drafting the 2012 Farm Bill.  During this process, one of the biggest challenges facing the committee and industry is budget constraints.  Like every industry, agriculture will face some budget cuts as part of necessary budget reduction efforts, but Congress needs to ensure that agriculture is not expected to bear a disproportionate share of that burden. Last year, in response to requirements included in the Budget Control Act of 2011, the House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders submitted a cost-savings proposal to the Super Committee that will likely serve as a starting point as Congress moves forward in its attempt to reduce the deficit and salvage the American economy.

Congressman Simpson continues to work with the Idaho Dairymen's Association and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Colin Peterson on the Dairy Security Act of 2011 with the intent that it will serve as a blueprint for the dairy portion of the farm bill.  This is an industry effort to provide producers with security to prevent devastating losses when milk prices drop and feed costs are high while giving them added flexibility to manage risk.

The next Farm Bill must reflect the diversity across the country, respect the challenges producers face, and preserve the tools necessary for food production. As the legislative process continues, your continued input is vital to our efforts.  It’s important that the entire agriculture community, and our Idaho industries, continue to work together to pass a farm bill and provide the confidence and stability necessary for producers in the field.