Washington Week Ahead: Focus on agriculture spending bill

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 27, 2014 - With the Senate in recess all week, agricultural stakeholders will be focused on the House Appropriations Committee which meets on to consider the FY 2015 spending bill for the USDA and FDA.

The panel's agriculture subcommittee last week approved a measure that authorizes $20.9 billion in discretionary spending and includes a controversial provision that would set up a waiver process for school districts that say they are unable to comply with tougher nutrition standards for school meal programs. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the provision would be a step backward in the effort to combat childhood obesity. The bill would also add white potatoes to the list of vegetables participants could purchase under the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its funding bill last week. Eventually, House and Senate bills will have to be reconciled in a conference committee.

The bill approved by the House Appropriations subcommittee includes:

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- Almost $2.6 billion for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in discretionary spending, an increase of $23 million over FY 2014 enacted level. Total funding for the FDA, including revenue from user fees, is $4.5 billion, $98 million above 2014. Within this total, food safety activities are increased by $25 million, and drug safety activities are increased by $12 million. 

- $2.65 billion for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This is approximately equal to the fiscal year 2014 enacted funding level.

- $1.5 billion for the Farm Service Agency, which is $27 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. This funding will support the various farm, conservation, loan, and emergency programs, and will help American farmers and ranchers with the implementation of the recently enacted farm bill.

- $1 billion for USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), approximately the same as the 2014 enacted level. These mandatory inspection activities help ensure the safety and productivity of the country's $186 billion meat and poultry industry. The funding supports more than 8,000 frontline inspection personnel for meat, poultry, and egg products at more than 6,400 facilities across the country. 

- $1.7 for International Food Programs, including a $66 million increase above the president's request for “Food for Peace” grants, and a $13 million increase over the request for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program.

- $218 for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), an increase of approximately $3 million above the FY 2014 enacted level and $62 million below Obama's budget request. The increase is targeted to necessary information technology improvements.

- $2.6 billion for Rural Development programs, $178 million above the FY 2015 requested level. The bill also establishes a new Chief Risk Officer to oversee and be accountable for the $200 billion rural development loan portfolio.

In other House action, the Small Business Committee on Thursday will hold a hearing to examine EPA's proposed rule to broaden the scope of waters subject to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

This week's tentative events on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the Washington area include:

Tuesday, May 27.

12 p.m. The House will meet in pro forma sessions. Votes are not expected.

2 p.m. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., host a conference call to announce investments in conservation projects under a program authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

3 p.m. USDA Poultry Slaughter report.

4 p.m. USDA Crop Progress report.

Wednesday, May 28.

12 p.m. The House will meet for morning hour and at 2 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m.

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3 p.m. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will speak at Brookings International Advisory Council Dinner in Washington. Closed press.

Thursday, May 29.

 9 a.m. House Appropriations Committee meets to markup FY2015 funding bill for Department of Agriculture and FDA programs. 2359 Rayburn.

10 a.m. The House will meet for morning hour and at 12 p.m. for legislative business.

1 p.m. The House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing to examine EPA's proposed rule to broaden the scope of waters subject to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The title of the hearing is “Will EPA's ‘Waters of the United States' Rule Drown Small Businesses?” Witnesses include Jack Field, owner of Lazy JF Cattle in Yakima, Washington, testifying on behalf of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. 2360 Rayburn.

3 p.m. USDA reports on Broiler Hatchery, Meat Animals (PDI), Milk (PDI), Peanut Stocks and Processing, and Poultry (Production and Value).

U.S. Trade Representative Froman will speak at the Transatlantic Policy Network's (TPN) Transatlantic Week in Washington. Closed Press.

Friday, May 30.

9 a.m. The House will meet for legislative business. Last votes expected no later than 3:00 p.m.

3 p.m. USDA reports on Agricultural Prices, Egg Products, Peanut Prices.

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