Obama signs FY 2014 omnibus package into law, giving USDA slight increase

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2014 - President Obama signed into law today a $1 trillion omnibus spending package that will fund the federal government through fiscal year 2014, and provide a combined $350 million boost to USDA and FDA.

The law funds 12 departments, and gives USDA and FDA a total of $20.9 billion in discretionary spending.  Several USDA agencies will receive slight increases, or funding levels close to FY 2013. A list of agency funding levels can be viewed here.

Lets Talk Food

Obama's signature came a day after the Senate approved the measure on a 72-26 vote and after the House approved it on a 359-67 vote.

While largely a spending bill, the law contains several rider provisions that may affect agricultural policy.

The law recommends, but does not require, that the USDA delays finalizing country-of-origin (COOL) meat labeling rules until after the World Trade Organization issues a final decision on the program. It also effectively stops the Grain Inspection, Stockyards and Packers Administration from finalizing rules dealing with contracts in the livestock and poultry sector.

The law prohibits funding from being used for USDA inspections of U.S. horse slaughter facilities. A similar ban expired in 2011.

Further, the law includes a provision aiming to clarify a prohibition on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from regulating farms with fewer than 10 employees.

Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said while his organization is pleased by the bipartisan nature of the law, it is “far from perfect.” Johnson said the law includes needed increases for rural development programs, but at the same time, he has concerns about the COOL recommendation.

“It is a sign of desperation when packers, processors, and our foreign competitors go as far as including misleading rhetoric and scare tactics in the omnibus report language, in order to try to deny consumers the right to know the origins of their food,” Johnson said.

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