The House Appropriations Committee last week passed its $143.9 billion (discretionary and mandatory funding) Fiscal Year ’16 agriculture appropriations bill by voice vote. The bill provides for $20.65 billion in discretionary funding which is $175 million below last year’s appropriations levels and $1.1 billion below the president’s proposed budget. The administration is threatening to veto the bill.
In a letter to the committee’s leadership Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan said, “the bill prevents the effective safeguarding of derivatives markets, shortchanges food safety needs, under funds efforts to address the challenge of child poverty, and slashes competitive research grants, diminishing our ability to field world-class and cutting-edge research and respond to emerging animal health issues.”
There were a number of issues addressed during the committee’s consideration of the bill including:
- Brazil-Argentine beef – The committee adopted an amendment that will delay the USDA’s recent announcement of allowing the importation of beef from Brazil and Argentina. It requires the USDA to develop a comprehensive risk evaluation and conduct site inspections of processing plants in Brazil and Argentina. Consumer groups and the cattle industry have stated their dissatisfaction with the USDA’s announcement.
- Horse slaughter – The committee defeated an amendment that would have extended the ban on horse slaughter in the United States.
- Crop insurance – An amendment was defeated that would have limited premium subsidies to farmers with adjusted gross incomes over $750,000 per year. It is estimated the amendment would have affected less than 1% of the farms in the United States.
- Dietary guidelines – The bill directs the USDA to coordinate with the Institute of Medicine to conduct a study on the Dietary Guidelines process, including transparency. Also, the bill addresses the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee selection process.
At this time there is no indication when or if the bill will be considered by the House of Representatives. There is concern that by taking the bill to the House it will reopen the 2014 farm bill. The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will consider its bill on Tuesday.