House ag appropriations bill passes out of subcommittee

Subcommittee approves budget with increased funding for APHIS, ag research and FDA to implement FSMA.

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee agriculture subcommittee approved its funding bill for fiscal year 2017. The bill totals $21.3 billion in discretionary funding, which is $451 million lower than the fiscal 2016 enacted level and $281 million below the President’s budget request.

“Our farmers, ranchers and food and drug producers are the backbone of a healthy nation. This bill recognizes their importance by investing in programs to support these critical industries and by reining in unnecessary regulations that slow economic growth, hold back production and dampen innovation,” House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers (R., Ky.) said.

The outbreak of avian influenza cost the economy well over $1 billion, and a number of communities out there are still hurting. “We have to be ready to address this, and any other disease, if an outbreak occurs,” agriculture appropriations subcommittee chairman Robert Aderholt (R., Ala.) said.

The bill provides the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) with nearly $10 million for on-farm surveillance and data collection to enhance the understanding of on-farm levels of antibiotic use and the impact on antimicrobial resistance levels.

The bill provides an increase of more than $33 million for food safety through the Food & Drug Administration to help implement the pending regulations associated with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The bill also includes a policy provision delaying implementation of a new menu labeling regulation by a year to give restaurants, local supermarkets, grocery stores and similar retail establishments adequate time to comply with the law.

The legislation includes $1 billion for food safety and inspection programs – an increase of $15.5 million from the 2016 enacted level. These mandatory inspection activities help ensure the safety and productivity of the country’s $185 billion meat and poultry industry and keep safe, healthy food on American tables. The funding provided will maintain more than 8,000 frontline inspection personnel for meat, poultry and egg products at approximately 6,400 facilities across the country.

The bill provides a $25 million increase for the Agriculture & Food Research Initiative, which is USDA’s premier competitive research program. The bill provides a total of $2.85 billion for agriculture research programs.

The House version does, however, keep the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) budget frozen for the third year in a row. It sets the funding for CFTC at $250 million, which is $80 million below the President’s budget request. The agreement includes language allowing CFTC to sublease its excess space to achieve savings identified by the Government Accountability Office and Inspector General.

To read more about where funding falls short in the House version, click here to read the Inside Washington coverage of the appropriations process.

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