WASHINGTON, June 14, 2013 – The House Appropriations Committee approved Thursday its fiscal year 2014 agriculture appropriations bill that would reduce about $1.3 billion in discretionary funding from last year.
The legislation, approved by voice vote, would provide $19.5 billion in funding, which is about $516 million below the president’s request.
The agencies and programs in the bill will receive a total of $139.4 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said the bill “adequately funds agricultural activities.”
“From keeping our food and drug supply the safest in the world, to supporting our farmers and ranchers who create millions of American jobs, to helping our most vulnerable families put meals on the table, the funding in this bill is critical to our nation’s economy,” Rogers said.
Committee ranking member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., called the funding level “unacceptable and at an unnecessarily low level.”
“I’m sorry that I’m forced to oppose this bill,” Lowey said.
The bill would fund agricultural and food programs and services, including food safety, animal and plant health programs, rural development and farm services, marketplace oversight, and nutrition programs.
“The bill reported out of committee will help America’s agricultural research remain cutting edge, maintain vibrant rural communities, provide nutrition to those most vulnerable, keep our markets competitive in the global economy, and maintain the safest food and drug supply in the world,” said Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala.
The committee approved the bill, sending it to the full House floor, after disposing with nearly 25 amendments on issues ranging from potato and horse meat consumption to artificial pancreas device systems, as well as more traditional topics like sugar policy and food stamps.
The committee approved an amendment from Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, with a 27-21 vote, which would prohibit any of the funds provided in the bill to be received by states that do not fully ensure the eligibility of recipients of benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., opposed the amendment saying Congress has made the programs too complicated for states to fully comply with the law.
“People are mad at these programs…like it’s a big welfare program,” Farr said. “Congress made it complicated and now we beat up on the states for error rates.”
The committee, by voice vote, approved an amendment, offered by Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., that would effectively ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
The amendment would prohibit use of USDA funds to inspect horse slaughter houses.
“Approval by the [House] Appropriations Committee is the first important step in ending this inhumane practice once and for all,” Moran said. “Today’s approval also sends a strong signal to businesses looking to make a profit off the slaughter and sale of these iconic creatures.”
A previous ban on horse slaughter for human consumption expired in 2011, and at least two companies have applied with the USDA to resume the practice to export the meat. Horse meat is popular in several countries, including France.
The committee approved, with a 29-17 vote, an amendment, offered by Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., that would prevent the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) from doing any further work on the GIPSA rulemaking that resulted from the 2008 farm bill.
The language is contained in the House’s version of the farm bill.
“This is in case the farm bill does not pass,” Womack said.
The committee approved, by voice vote, an amendment offered by Rep. Michael Simpson, R-Idaho, that would allow potatoes to be purchased with WIC benefits.
Simpson said current rules allow people to purchase fresh white potatoes at a farmers market with WIC, but not at grocery stores. He said this is not about potato chips or french fries.
In opposition, Farr said it is not the place of Congress to tell WIC what is nutritious. Instead, it should be left up to nutritional experts.
“I may look like a potato, but I don’t want the children to look like [potatoes],” Farr said.
The committee approved, by voice vote, an amendment offered by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., that would authorize $1 million to establish a commission to study domestic hunger and food insecurity.
The committee approved, by voice vote, an amendment, offered by Lowey, which urges the FDA to ensure that it uses a science-based approach in its guidance on artificial pancreas device systems.
Several amendments were withdrawn and may come up again on the House floor.
One amendment, offered by Rep. Charles Dent, R-Pa., aimed to undermine the U.S. sugar program by prohibiting loan rates higher than 17 cents per pound for raw cane sugar and 21.9 cents per pound for refined beet sugar.
“When prices drop, they get paid by the government, then the government sells it to ethanol companies at a loss, and the taxpayers get screwed twice,” Dent said.
Aderholt opposed the amendment, saying the topic of sugar policy should be debated as part of the farm bill. Farr said it amounted to an attempt to authorize on an appropriations bill.
Another amendment that was withdrawn came from Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., which sought to provide $6 million aimed at preventing a new strain of wheat rust from hitting U.S. wheat. McCollum said the strain, Ug99, will disrupt the wheat supply within the next few years.
“It’s an air spore. Ug99 is one plane flight away,” McCollum said. “Wheat would become a luxury item.”
Rogers opposed the amendment, saying the language may be in violation of the ban on earmarks. Still, Aderholt said he would work with McCollum to resolve the issue.
The committee rejected, by a 22-26 vote, to increase the funding of the Commodity Futures Trade Commission (CFTC) by $120.4 million.
The amendment was offered by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
“Americans want to see more accountability from Wall Street, not less,” DeLauro said. “To make that happen we need enough cops on the beat at the CFTC, but right now the commission is dangerously underfunded. Congress is effectively licensing more excessive risk-taking and bad behavior by banks and speculators.”
The underlying bill would provide the following funding levels for agriculture-related programs:
- $76.3 billion in mandatory funding for SNAP, which is $958 million below the FY 2013 level and $2 billion below the president’s budget request.
- $20.45 billion for mandatory child nutrition programs, which is $561 million above the FY 2013 level.
- $6.7 billion for WIC, which is $214 million below the FY 2013 level and $487 million below the president’s request.
- $2.5 billion for the FDA, which is an increase of $24 million above the FY 2013 level.
- $2.5 billion for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, about equal to the FY 2013 level.
- $2.2 billion for rural development programs, which is equal to the FY 2013 level.
- $1.5 billion for the Farm Service Agency, which is equal to the FY 2013 level.
- $1.15 billion for “Food for Peace” grants, which is $284 million below the FY 2013 level.
- $999 million for the Food Safety and Inspection Service, which is $31 million below the FY 2013 level.
- $823 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which is $2.3 million below the FY 2013 level.
- $803.5 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, about equal to the FY 2013 level.
- $195 million for the CFTC, which is a cut of $10 million from the FY 2013 level, and $120 million below the president’s budget request.
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