House Agriculture Committee approves budget views and estimates letter

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 13, 2014 - The House Agriculture Committee adopted today, by voice vote, its budget views and estimates letter, which outlines the committee's budget and policy recommendations for the agencies and programs under its jurisdiction for fiscal year 2015. The committee also approved legislation related to pesticide regulations.

The letter said the committee's main focus will be to ensure proper implementation of the new farm bill, while continuing its oversight role to ensure USDA is administering its programs in a fiscally responsible manner. The letter said the committee will reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and continue oversight of that agency's regulations.

Lets Talk Food

“The Agricultural Act of 2014 contributes substantially to deficit reduction while simultaneously making historic reforms to every facet of farm, nutrition, and conservation policy,” said Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla. “With its enactment, the committee will rightly focus on its oversight role ensuring that the Department of Agriculture is administering food and nutrition programs in a fiscally responsible way and implementing the reforms of the new farm bill as Congress intended.”

Also, the letter said the committee will monitor several reforms made by the farm bill to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and “look for ways to more efficiently administer the federal nutrition programs, ultimately ensuring that every American has food on their table while we continue to be good stewards of taxpayer funds.”

The letter noted that even though the farm bill is expected to save $23 billion, some may argue for deeper cuts to agricultural programs because of strong prices. “This conclusion ignores lessons from history,” the letter said. “Recent high prices have not made the family enterprises that make up our farm sector any less vulnerable - indeed it has just raised the stakes in what is still an exceptionally costly, risky business.”

Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said even though the farm bill will produce significant savings “we know that agriculture programs will continue to come under attack from those outside the committee.” Peterson further said he hopes lawmakers will “avoid political games and keep in mind the safety net the farm bill provides during tough economic times, be it for farmers or consumers struggling to put food on the table.”

The letter will be submitted to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as required by House rules.

The committee also approved legislation (H.R. 935) that would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) to clarify congressional intent and eliminate the requirement of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for the use of pesticides already approved for use under FIFRA.

The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., was reported out favorably by the committee after little discussion. The same bill passed the House in 2011 and cleared the Senate Agriculture Committee, but the full Senate failed to consider it during the last Congress. Companion legislation to H.R. 935 was offered by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., early last year.

The measure is designed to address the ruling posed by the case National Cotton Council v. EPA (6th Cir. 2009). Under the court ruling, pesticide users are required to obtain a redundant permit under the CWA or be subject to a costly fine.

Bill supporters say the regulations impose undue burdens on the agriculture sector.

“I am pleased that we approved H.R. 935, which is necessary to address the negative economic consequences of a misguided court ruling,” Lucas said.

Peterson said the legislation would relieve producers “from the burden of a paperwork exercise with no environmental benefit.”

In addition, the committee approved a resolution (H.Con.Res. 86) to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the enactment of the Smith-Lever Act, the legislation that established agriculture's Cooperative Extension System in 1914. The Cooperative Extension System is an educational and research partnership between USDA and the nation's land-grant universities.

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