Ag appropriations could be farm bill bargaining chip

Ag appropriations could be farm bill bargaining chip

ON a 235-187 vote last Wednesday, the House cleared the way for consideration of the $19.45 billion agricultural spending bill after the Fourth of July recess.

However, House Agriculture Committee chair Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) has struck a bargain to derail the appropriations bill if he doesn't receive a plan for passing a comprehensive farm bill.

Lucas can raise points of order that would strip out nearly $885 million in legislative offsets the House Appropriations Committee uses to stay within its budget. If Lucas uses all the tools at his disposal, he could require the bill's managers to consider across-the-board cuts of nearly 5% to make up the difference and meet the spending cut levels.

The bill funds the Food & Drug Administration as well as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Lucas was quoted in Politico as saying he doesn't want the agricultural appropriations bill to move until leaders can address the future of the farm bill.

"It's all intertwined, and it is hard to pass an appropriations bill until you have a farm bill, to know how it's going to interact," he said.

As shown in the failed House farm bill vote, Republican leaders don't appear to be in sync on their support for agricultural funding.

In addition, President Barack Obama issued a veto threat for the House agricultural appropriations bill.

"The bill severely undermines key investments in financial oversight in a manner that would cripple Wall Street reform and impedes implementation of statutorily mandated financial regulations," Obama said. "It also imposes harmful cuts in rural economic development, renewable energy development, nutrition programs, food safety, agricultural research and international food aid."

(The President's food aid reform proposal would reduce the allowable purchases of U.S. commodities to be shipped overseas. The proposal does have increasing support in the House: An amendment during farm bill consideration narrowly was defeated.)

In the President's veto statement, he added that his Administration opposes the funding level for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS).

"In addition to a nearly $10 million reduction from the President's budget request, the committee bill forces FSIS to absorb $9 million in rental costs by not providing the necessary funding. These cuts will significantly impact USDA's ability to adequately inspect food processing plants and prevent foodborne diseases from contaminating America's meat, poultry and egg product supply," the statement said.

The Administration also urged the House to include the requested $155 million to fund a high-priority poultry biosafety laboratory that is planned to replace an aging facility in Georgia.

In regard to the ban on funding for horse slaughter facility inspections, the Administration said it "appreciates reinstatement of the federal ban on horse slaughter and looks forward to working with Congress to complete work on this important legislation."

The President's veto statement also outlined strong opposition to the provision that prevents USDA's Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration from further implementing the remaining portions of a rule on conduct violations of the Packers & Stockyards Act of 1921.

"This provision would rescind many components of the rule that was finalized in December 2011 preventing its full implementation, which is needed to clarify conditions for industry compliance with the Packers & Stockyards Act and provide for a fairer marketplace," the Administration said.

Appropriators have stripped funding for the provision for the past three years.

Volume:85 Issue:26

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