FY ’17 agriculture appropriations moves through Senate committee

The $147.7 billion FY ’17 agriculture appropriations bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee with priorities for agricultural research, food safety, programs that supports veterans working in agriculture and opening a USDA office in Cuba.

The bill includes $126.5 billion in mandatory programs and $21.25 billion in discretionary funding. The $147.7 billion bill is $21.7 billion below the president’s budget request and $7.1 billion above FY ’16.

Key areas:

► Agriculture research — Provides $2.54 billion for agricultural research conducted by Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This includes $375 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative which is a $25 million increase.

► Military veterans — Incentives are created for military veterans to explore career opportunities in production agriculture: $5 million through the USDA’s veteran outreach initiatives and $2.5 million for the Food and Agriculture Resilience Program for Military Veterans. Farm Service Agency loan application fees for veteran farmers and ranchers are waived.

► Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services — APHIS receives $939.3 million which is an increase of $44.9 million over last year. Increased funding is provided for emergency preparedness/response regarding highly pathogenic avian influenza.

► Food Safety and Inspection Service — The bill includes $1.033 billion for FSIS. The bill supports more than 8,000 meat and poultry inspectors at more than 6,400 facilities.

► Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — $79.682 billion in mandatory funding is provided for SNAP (former food stamp program). This is a decrease of $1.167 billion from last year’s level due to declining enrollments.

► EQIP — The bill limits the Environmental Quality Incentives Program at $1.35 billion which is approximately $300 million below the mandated farm bill level.

► FDA — $2.759 billion is provided for the Food and Drug Administration which is $39 million over last year’s funding. This is to help with implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

► Cuba — $1.5 million is provided for the USDA to open an office in Cuba that will help promote U.S. products. This provision is supported by the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba.

► Menu labeling — The bill maintains the delay for FDA implementation of the new menu labeling regulation.

The bill does not include a number of items that are in the House agriculture appropriations bill including funding for education on the safety of biotech and prohibition on USDA’s efforts to implement Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration regulations for poultry and livestock operations.

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