No funds for animal ID in ag bill
WASHINGTON (DTN) – The House Appropriations Committee late Thursday approved a fiscal year 2010 agriculture appropriations bill that includes no money for the national animal identification system and continues a ban on the importation of processed chicken meat from China.
House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, who is an advocate of a mandatory national ID system to trace back animal diseases, seemed to be open to providing more money once USDA completes a round of sessions listening to stakeholders on the issue. DeLauro said that USDA has received $142 million for the program since FY2004 and “has yet to put into operation an effective system that would provide needed animal health and livestock market benefits.”
Until USDA finishes the listening sessions “continued investments into the current system are unwarranted,” she added.
It’s unclear, however, whether USDA can come up with a plan for a mandatory program that satisfies critics. There have been reports that opponents of a mandatory system have dominated the listening sessions.
The bill contains a provision forbidding the Agriculture Department from proceeding with a rule to allow the importation of chicken from China. House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Jack Kingston, R-GA, did not offer an amendment that he had planned to that would have repealed the ban language and instead set standards for the conditions under which imports could occur.
DeLauro, an advocate for banning chicken imports from China, said that she and Kingston would continue to consult on the chicken ban. DeLauro also noted that she believes the process under which the Agriculture Department decided that Chinese government inspection of chicken plants is equivalent to U.S. inspection was “flawed” and that USDA “placed trade considerations above the public health” in making that determination. She said the subcommittee will be holding hearings on the overall equivalency decision making process.
The bill, which was approved by voice vote, provides $20.4 billion – $2 billion above fiscal year 2009 – for discretionary programs at USDA, but the bill also authorizes spending for mandatory nutrition and farm subsidies, which can only be estimated for the coming year.
During the same meeting, the committee approved a 302(B) allocation that includes $99 billion in budget authority and $89 billion in outlays for mandatory USDA programs in fiscal year 2010, bringing the agency’s total USDA mandatory and discretionary budget to an estimated $119.4 billion.
On the mandatory farm side, the bill reimburses the Commodity Credit Corporation for $11.1 billion expended on basic farm subsidies in FY09 and provides for an expected $13.8 billion for farm subsidies in FY10, an increase of $2.7 billion. The bill also provides $7.5 billion for the crop insurance program, an increase of $920 million from fiscal year 2009. The bill estimates total mandatory and appropriated farm assistance programs at $29.9 billion, an increase of $4.2 billion over fiscal year 2009. The bill also provides a total of $981 million for conservation programs, an increase of $11.8 million.
The fiscal year 2010 bill’s estimate of mandatory nutrition spending provides for up to $61.4 billion for the supplemental nutrition assistance program that was formerly been known as the food stamps program, and for similar programs on Indian reservations and in Samoa and an emergency food assistance program. Benefits under the supplemental nutrition assistance program were increased in the 2008 farm bill and in the economic stimulus package, and the $61.4 billion estimate for fiscal year 2010 is an increase from $54 billion in fiscal year 2009. Total domestic nutrition spending – including the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children (WIC), which is appropriated at $7.5 billion for fiscal year 2010 – is estimated at $86.3 billion.
The bill also provided $2.35 billion for the Food and Drug Administration, $298.6 million above fiscal year 2009, and $160.6 million for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, $14.6 million above fiscal year 2009.
The committee defeated an amendment offered by Rep. Ken Calvert, R-CA, that would have prohibited funds from the bill for being used to enter into a contract with an entity that is eligible to participate, but has not elected to participate, in the E-Verify program that is supposed to make it possible for employers to verify whether immigrant workers are in the United States legally or not. The amendment was defeated 34 to 23.
The committee also accepted by voice vote an amendment by Rep. Mark Kirk, R-IL, to direct the agriculture secretary, chief economist and the USDA Economic Research Service to undertake an independent study of the impact of renewable fuel production on land use changes. Kirk noted that the Environmental Protection Agency has published a controversial proposed rule on how renewable fuels qualify for renewable fuel standards and said it made sense to have USDA look at the renewable fuels program as well.