The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its $148.3 billion (mandatory and discretionary spending) fiscal year 2016 agriculture appropriations bill. The bill is $24 billion below President Obama’s request and $3.7 billion below last year’s appropriations bill. The bill addresses various policy issues.
- Dietary guidelines: Requires the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans be based solely on nutritional and scientific evidence and not extraneous information.
- Animal welfare and federal research facilities: The USDA’s Agriculture Research Service is directed to ensure all federal animal research facilities are compliant with animal welfare standards equivalent to the Animal Welfare Act. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would be required to conduct routine inspections of ARS facilities to ensure humane treatment of animals.
- Horse slaughter: Continues the prohibition of horse slaughter in the United States.
- Salmon: Genetically engineered salmon would have to be labeled as GMO
- Brazil and Argentina beef: Would delay the USDA’s decision to allow for the importation of beef from Brazil and Argentina
- Farm Service Agency offices: Would prohibit the USDA from closing local FSA offices.
- Food for Peace: Provides $10 million in Food for Peace funding for overseas commodities purchases or “local and regional procurement.”
- Food Safety Modernization Act: Provides the Food and Drug Administration an additional $45 million for implementation of the new rules required by the FSMA.
There is no indication when or if the bill will be considered by the full Senate. The administration and Democrats are objecting to the spending caps on all appropriations bills and have threatened to not let appropriations bills be considered until this issue is resolved.
The House has delayed consideration of its pending appropriation bills because of the controversy over amendments concerning the Confederate flag. Speculation is Congress will end up doing a short-term continuing resolution at the end of September.