Omnibus appropriations bill gives ag 7% boost

Published on: Jan 14, 2014

Appropriators unveiled omnibus appropriations legislation (H.R. 3547) this week that would implement last month's budget agreement and fund the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2014. The package of twelve spending bills includes discretionary funding of $20.9 billion for USDA and FDA, an increase of $350 million over 2013 levels after the sequester.

The bill is on track for a vote in the House on Wednesday, followed by a Senate vote later this week.

In regards to agriculture, the House Appropriations Committee specifically states the following funding (click here for the full overview):

Animal and Plant Health – The legislation includes $821.7 million – equal to the fiscal year 2013 enacted level – for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

Food Safety and Inspection – The legislation includes more than $1 billion for the Food Safety and Inspection Service, $19 million below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.

Agricultural Research – The bill provides $2.6 billion for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This includes $316 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

Conservation Programs – The bill provides $826 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service – virtually the same as the fiscal year 2013 enacted level – to help farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners conserve and protect their land.

Farm Service Agency (FSA) – The legislation provides $1.5 billion for FSA, which is equal to the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. This funding will support the various farm, conservation, loan, and emergency programs for American farmers and ranchers, including loan authorizations in excess of $5.5 billion for farm ownership, farm operating, conservation and emergency loans.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – The bill provides for $82.2 billion in required mandatory spending – which is outside the discretionary funding jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee – for SNAP. This program provides food assistance to more than 47 million Americans on average every month.

International Food Programs – The legislation contains $1.47 billion for “Food for Peace” grants, also known as the P.L. 480 – Title II program. This is $32 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. The bill does not reflect the President’s budget request to move this program to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In addition, the legislation provides $185.1 million for the McGovern-Dole International Food Program that uses donated U.S. commodities to support education, child development, and food security.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) – Included in the bill is $215 million for the CFTC, which is $100 million below the President’s budget request.

In addition to its funding provisions, the legislation would reinstate a ban on horse slaughter. The new defunding language contains not only defunding, but also a stipulation that funding not be restored until and unless the Food and Drug Administration makes a determination that meat from American horses can be made safe to enter the food supply. Defunding language was passed by both the House and the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committees in 2013 with super majorities, but neither budget reached the floor for a full vote.

It would also prevent USDA’s Grain Inspection, Stockyards and Packers Administration (GIPSA) from finalizing regulations related to contracts for livestock and poultry growers. The bill also expresses concerns with USDA’s Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations and strongly encourages USDA to hold off finalizing those regulations until after the World Trade Organization issues its ruling.

The omnibus appropriations bill includes report language, submitted by Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.), which would prevent the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) from expanding its regulatory oversight onto farms with fewer than 10 employees. The report language is in response to a 2011 OSHA memo stating certain traditional farm activities would be under OSHA’s regulatory jurisdiction going forward.

The complete language states, “The bill continues the exemption of small farming operations from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation. The OSHA is encouraged to work with the Department of Agriculture before moving forward with any attempts to redefine and regulate post-harvest activities, to include, but not limited to, storing, drying, grinding, and other activities necessary to market farm products to subsequent users in the agricultural value chain, and clarify that this exemption shall apply to on-farm post-harvest activities.”