Senate Ag Approps approves spending bill with ERS, NIFA relocation $25M |

Senate Ag Approps approves spending bill with ERS, NIFA relocation $25M

The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee today approved a fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill for the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration and the Farm Credit Administration that includes money for the Agriculture Department to move most of the employees of the USDA Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture from Washington to the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The House version of the bill attempts to stop USDA from moving the ERS and NIFA employees.

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., told reporters that the difference between the House and Senate bills is one reason that the Senate should move the Agriculture bill on the floor so that issues can be worked out in conference.

“Remember, we’ve got divided government,” Hoeven told reporters, a reference to the White House and the Senate being controlled by Republicans and the House by Democrats.

Senate Agriculture Appropriations ranking member Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., praised the bill in general, but said he would be “remiss” if he did not object to the funding for the relocation. ERS and NIFA employees, he said, work with other agencies in Washington, and advocates from around the country come to Washington to meet with officials in other agencies and may now be forced to make separate trips to Kansas City.

In a statement, Merkley said, “Unfortunately, this bill has one problematic issue in its support for the forced relocation of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which would do irreparable harm to cutting-edge research agencies whose work the American agriculture industry relies on. I hope that we can work with our colleagues in the House to do better before a final bill is signed into law. In the meantime, I will work to advance the rest of this bill’s significant and important investments that will improve quality of life across rural communities and for all Americans.”

The bill, which is scheduled for consideration by the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, provides $151.7 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding, which is $87 million below the fiscal year 2019 enacted level. The discretionary funding in the bill totals $23.1 billion, $58 million above the fiscal year 2019 level. Mandatory funding in the bill totals $128.6 billion.

The $23.1 billion compares with $24.3 billion in the House version of the fiscal year 2020 Agriculture bill. But the House bill includes $315 million for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which in the Senate is covered by the fiscal year Financial Services bill, which provides $305 million for the CFTC.

Details of the bill may be found in news releases issued by Hoeven and Merkley.

–The Hagstrom Report