The Agriculture Department would get $560 million more for rural broadband expansion, plus increases for research, food aid and combating animal and plant diseases, under a House spending bill for fiscal 2023.

The Food and Drug Administration, which also would be funded through the bill, would get $3.6 billion, an increase of $341 million over FY22, including $77 million more for food safety. 

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee advanced the bill on a voice vote Wednesday over the objections of Republicans who primarily objected to the increased spending levels that they said were excessive. 

The top Republican on the subcommittee, Andy Harris of Maryland, singled out the increase for FDA in particular. “It's clear that strong leadership is needed at FDA, not a significant increase in funding,” Harris said.

He also objected to provision that would continue a special allowance for fruits and vegetables in the Women, Infants and Children program. He said the provision implemented during the pandemic was intended to be temporary. 

The bill would provide a total of $27.2 billion for USDA, FDA and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which would be an 8% increase over FY22 for programs at those agencies that are subject to annual appropriations from Congress.

The total doesn’t include the cost of commodity and nutrition assistance programs, whose spending levels are directed by laws such as the farm bill and by annual enrollment levels. Much of FDA's regulation of drugs is funded through user fees, rather than annual appropriations. 

The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1, although the FY23 legislation is unlikely to be enacted until much later. 

The rural broadband funding, which would represent a $10 million increase over what Congress provided for FY22, includes $450 million for USDA’s Reconnect loan and grant program and is in addition to the $2 billion earmarked for ReConnect under the bipartisan infrastructure law enacted in 2021.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would get a $52 million increase in funding, bringing its budget to $1.16 billion.

The increases will "help address harmful pests and diseases such as cotton pests, spotted lanternfly, and chronic wasting disease, and support the growing needs of animal health surveillance and veterinary biological products such as vaccines and diagnostic tests while maintaining increases from past years for citrus greening,” according to a committee summary.

The bill also earmarks $5 million for USDA to test soil, water and agricultural products for PFAS chemicals and to help with farmers' cleanup costs. 

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USDA research programs would get $3.6 billion, up from $3.5 billion in FY22.

The bill would boost two key USDA food aid programs. The Food for Peace program, which pays for distributing U.S. commodities overseas, would get $1.8 billion, an increase from $1.74 billion in FY22. The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program would receive $265 million, up from $237 million.

To address rural development needs, the bill includes a new 1% loan program for rural water projects and would fund a record $1.5 billion in single-family home loans.

Rep. Sanford Bishop, the Georgia Democrat who chairs the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said the bill would “expand and improve rural housing, broadband, health care, public safety, and water infrastructure,” while funding research that will “strengthen our nation’s agricultural productivity and sustainability.”

The bill would provide $365 million for the CFTC, the amount the administration proposed but $17 million below the agency's FY22 budget. 

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