Ag budget passes Senate committee
WASHINGTON -- The Senate Appropriations Committee July 7 approved a $124.5 billion fiscal year 2010 agriculture appropriations bill. The bill once again would cut funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program below the level provided i...
WASHINGTON -- The Senate Appropriations Committee July 7 approved a $124.5 billion fiscal year 2010 agriculture appropriations bill.
The bill once again would cut funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program below the level provided in the farm bill. It does include a key Obama administration request of $13 million for the development of sustainable food systems in countries with chronic food shortages.
The bill passed 30-0 on a unanimous roll call vote. Fiscal year 2010 begins Oct. 1. The House was scheduled to take up its appropriations bill on the floor July 8. The Senate bill still has to go to the Senate floor, and assuming the bills passed, a conference committee would have to make them into one bill, which also would have to be passed by both houses and signed by President Obama to become law.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii, noted that Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl, D-Wis., had to cut some mandatory programs to pay for programs the subcommittee considered important. A Kohl spokeswoman said funding for the EQIP, which pays for the cleanup of livestock and other farm facilities, would rise from $1.067 billion in fiscal year 2009 to $1.2 billion in fiscal 2010, but that level would be $250 million below the level provided in the farm bill. The committee was able to use those budget savings for other programs.
The Environmental Defense Fund praised the Senate appropriators for not making additional cuts in conservation programs that the Obama administration had proposed.
'We understand the administration's goal is to cut the deficit, but programs that help drive private investment in public benefits -- like cleaner water, cleaner air and improved habitat for wildlife -- are a great deal for taxpayers," EDF director of agricultural policy Sara Hopper said in a news release.
The bill also cut the $52 million from the $8.1 billion Section 32 program that provides a percentage of tariff revenues to the USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Service for the purchase of food.
The $13 million for agriculture development in poor countries is tiny compared with the underlying bill and the money it provides for international food aid, but it comes at an opportune moment because Obama was scheduled to promise at a meeting in Italy of the eight most developed countries that the United States will provide more money for agricultural development in poor countries as part of a global food security initiative.
Overseas food aid
The bill includes $1.89 billion for international food aid, an increase of $564 million above the fiscal year 2009 level not including supplemental appropriations, and the same as the president's request. Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl, D-Wis., noted that the Bush administration had relied on supplemental legislation to meet annual food aid requests rather than budgeting for them and said he thinks Obama's budget proposal "included more reliable estimates."
Of the $1.89 billion, $1.69 billion is for the Food for Peace Title II program, $464.1 million more than fiscal year 2009, and $199.95 million for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program, $99.5 million more than the fiscal 2009 level.
Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Sam Brownback, R-Kan., noted that the bill provides additional funds for research to develop new food aid products that may use micronutrients to address health problems in developing countries. Brownback also noted that 60 percent of the food aid budget now goes for administration and transportation, which he described as "out of whack." Brownback said he had proposed putting a cap on the administration and transportation budget but that Kohl had persuaded him that the subcommittee needs to "get a better feel" for the costs before adopting such a proposal.
The Senate bill does not include a controversial provision in the House fiscal year 2010 agriculture appropriations bill that would stop funding for a national animal identification program that would require meat animals to be registered from birth until slaughter. But Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., said he was working on an animal identification amendment similar to the House provision that he may offer on the Senate floor.
The Agriculture Department has started the animal identification program so that animal diseases could be traced back to their source, but cattle ranchers are so opposed to it that only one-third of premises on which animals are raised have registered for the program. House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., favors mandatory registration, but says the Agriculture Department has so mismanaged the program that Congress should not provide any more money for it unless USDA comes up with a method to make the program work.
The bill covers the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration, which is a division of the Health and Human Services Department, and the Farm Credit Administration. Unlike the House agriculture appropriations bill, it does not cover the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Of the $124.5 billion in spending, $100.848 billion is for mandatory farm subsidy and nutrition programs, compared with $87.8 billion in the fiscal year 2009 bill and the president's request of $100.846 billion. Most of the increase in mandatory spending is for nutrition programs. People who qualify for the mandatory farm and nutrition programs are automatically eligible for participation.
The bill includes $23.7 billion is for discretionary programs, compared with $21.36 billion in the fiscal year 2009 bill and the president's request of $23.6 billion. USDA discretionary programs include food safety, agricultural research and rural development.
Sixty-nine percent of the Senate bill -- $86.1 billion -- is for nutrition programs, including $61.4 billion in mandatory spending for the supplemental nutrition assistance program that used to be called food stamps, $16.8 billion in mandatory spending for the school breakfast and lunch program, and $7.552 billion in discretionary spending for the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children, known as WIC. The bill increases WIC spending by nearly $700 million above the level in the fiscal year 2009 agriculture appropriations bill.
The bill includes $2.4 billion for the HHS Food and Drug Administration, the president's full request and $299 million above fiscal year 2009. It also includes $1.1 billion for the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, equal to the president's request and $47 million above fiscal year 2009.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who also serves on the appropriations committee, objected to a provision in Kohl's manager's amendment that would relocate a research center focused on animal diseases caused by insects from Laramie, Wyo., to Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. Harkin said a USDA study had shown that the National Center for Animal Health in Ames, Iowa, would be able to perform 100 percent of the functions the center needed and that KSU would not.