House Subcommittee OKs agriculture funds bill on split vote

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 5, 2013 - The House Appropriations Committee's agriculture subcommittee today approved its fiscal 2014 spending bill for USDA and related agencies despite Democrats' objections to its cuts in nutrition and food aid programs. The bill was advanced to the full committee on a voice vote, with several “no” votes audible.

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The bill would provide $19.5 billion in discretionary funds, $1.3 billion less than the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and approximately the level created by automatic sequestration spending cuts. It totals $516 million less than the president's budget request. The bill does not affect $119.9 billion in mandatory spending for permanent programs such as crop insurance and food stamps.

Two subcommittee Democrats said they would oppose the bill because of cuts in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, and the Food for Peace Program and for what they said was inadequate funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. It provides $195 million for CFTC, $10 million below the fiscal 2013 enacted level and $120 million below the president's budget request.

“I know you did your best, but frankly the inadequate allocation resulted in a bill I must oppose,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the ranking Democrat on the full committee. The cut of 6.2 percent from this year “falls short in many areas,” she said. With no increase CFTC, “critical financial service reforms could not be implemented.”

“It is with deep regret that I am forced to oppose this bill today,” Lowey said, noting that the White House Statement of Administration Policy threatened to veto several appropriations bills “because of the unrealistic allocation. I cannot support a bill that among other problems makes it more difficult for mothers to access nutrition services” and hobbles FDA efforts to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act. WIC would get $6.7 billion, which is $214 million less than the fiscal 2013 enacted level and $487 million below the president's request.

“I can not support this bill as it stands,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who said that the 7.3 percent WIC cut “could result in over 200,000 pregnant mothers and infants losing nutrition they need. That's wrong.” She added, “This bill shows no compassion when it slashes Food for Peace by 20 percent below last year's level.” The PL-480 Food for Peace program would get $1.15 billion, a cut of $284 million from the fiscal 2013 level, and rejects the president's budget request to move the program from USDA to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

DeLauro also faulted the bill for not prohibiting funds for USDA inspection of horse slaughter facilities and including nothing about the proposed acquisition of Smithfield Foods by China's Shanghui International Holdings - a suggestion that amendments likely will arise when the full committee considers the bill.

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., the subcommittee's ranking Democrat, said the spending levels in the bill were “too low to allow the USDA to do the job it is assigned in law.”

The bill also prohibits the Farm Credit Administration from enforcing a so-called “say on pay” rule designed to allow borrowers a say in salaries of senior officers of Farm Credit System banks and lending associations. The rule has encountered opposition from the Farm Credit Council, the trade association that represents the lenders in the FCS credit network.

The text of the subcommittee bill is at http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/BILLS-113HR-SC-AP-FY2014-Agriculture-SubcommitteeDraft.pdf

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