Bill includes farm antibiotic monitoring
The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee approved a fiscal year 2017 bill on April 13, to fund the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Farm Credit Administration.
The vote was by voice, with the lone dissent appearing to be Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
The bill is also the last for House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Sam Farr, D-Calif., who is retiring. In an opening statement, Farr said that Congress should re-establish earmarks because “rural America cannot survive without them.”
Total funding under the bill including mandatory farm and nutrition spending is $147 billion, while the discretionary allocation is $21.3 billion, $451 million below the enacted fiscal year 2016 level and $181 million below the president’s request.
The bill leaves the funding level for the CFTC flat at $250 million, which was a matter of criticism by Democrats.
Following the passage of the Dodd-Frank financial services reform bill, the CFTC’s responsibilities have grown seven times, Farr said, noting that the Obama administration had requested $80 million more for the agency.
“Some day we are going to have a crisis,” Farr said. “If we continue to try to starve it, it won’t be able to do its job.”
The bill followed the pattern of recent years with cuts to some mandatory conservation programs to fund committee discretionary priorities. But the bill provides $10 million for the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to monitor the use of antibiotics on farms. Industries that use antibiotics in farm animals joined together with critics of their use to ask for more money for monitoring.
The House bill does not contain any provision to require the Agriculture Department to declare cottonseed an oilseed, House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., told reporters afterward.
Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said in a letter to congressional leaders today that they fear the appropriators will attempt to insert that provision in the Agriculture appropriations bill.
Aderholt also told The Hagstrom Report that the Agriculture Department has not satisfied his concerns about the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, for which funds were restricted last year after a New York Times investigation of the treatment of animals. But Aderholt and an aide both said APHIS is in the “process” of completing its inspection of the center.
In his opening statement, Aderholt emphasized that the subcommittee has not gone along with the Obama administration’s proposals to cut rural development programs.
“We have ensured funding for such programs as the mutual and self-help housing program, the business and industry loan program, the water and waste disposal program including technical assistance and the circuit rider program,” Aderholt said.
“The bill maintains funding levels for the community facility loans and rural utility service electric loans and safeguards that lending is driven by the needs of the borrower. We also provide the necessary funding for the Rental Assistance program to serve very low income residents.”
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., also praised the bill for funding the rural development programs, which he noted has gone up one third since 2013.
Aderholt also pointed out that the bill includes:
▪ An increase of $33 million for food safety programs at the Food and Drug Administration, bringing the total for FDA to $1.3 billion.
▪ $5 million for USDA’s Extension Service for education on the Food Safety Modernization Act so that FDA will not be the only educator on FSMA.
▪ A $25 million increase for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the USDA competitive research program.
▪ An additional $19 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to keep TEFAP commodity level funding level.
▪ $628 million for the Summer Food Service Program as well as funding for a Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer pilot program for children.
Farr said he had concerns about the bill, but “they are minor compared with what the bill accomplishes. “
But Farr said the bill does not provide enough money for the FDA or the CFTC and that he was concerned the U.S. Agency for International Development was not given enough flexibility to buy non-U.S. food for its food aid programs.
U.S. food aid, Farr said, “has become the most expensive food in the world,” and low-income countries cannot develop an agricultural base “as long as there is food coming from somewhere else.”
DeLauro was more outspoken in her criticism. She praised the bill for providing “sufficient funding for hunger programs,” but said it provides too little for the CFTC and the FDA.
DeLauro also said she does not like:
▪ Provisions that attempt to stamp out waste, fraud and abuse in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) but not in crop insurance.
▪ Calls on SNAP beneficiaries to inform officials it they are moving out of state.
▪ A measure preventing the FDA from regulating large cigars.
▪ Further delays in FDA’s enforcement of restaurant menu labeling contained in the Affordable Care Act.
“I cannot support this bill,” DeLauro said.
House Appropriations Committee ranking member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., criticized the bill for reducing funds for school equipment grants and summer EBT and for including a provision providing $3 million for the Agriculture Department to promote genetic modification.
Afterward Lowrey told reporters she believes it is appropriate to have a discussion of genetically modified foods, but not for USDA to promote them with the American public.
Rogers said he hopes the House will pass the bill “intact.”
But Aderholt told reporters he would not be surprised to see amendments on a ban on inspection of horse slaughter facilities, which is not included in the bill this year and on the regulation of cigars and E-cigarettes.
Lowey noted that House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has said that appropriations bills will not go through the House without a budget, and then she pointed out that a budget has not passed because Republicans find the proposed budget from their own party leaders “insufficiently radical.”
Afterward a lobbyist said it is likely that the bill will come up in the House Appropriations Committee next week, but after that will be folded into an omnibus appropriations bill during the lame-duck session unless the Congress decides to pass a continuing resolution and leave the full funding for fiscal 2017 until next year when a new president takes office.
Aderholt, DeLauro, Rogers and Lowey all praised Farr upon his retirement.
Rogers said his only question about Farr, who is ending a 23-year congressional career, is that “Staying away from Monterey peninsula for 23 years doesn’t speak well of your intelligence.”
–The Hagstrom Report
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