Ag budget to hit House, Senate soon
WASHINGTON -- Dairy farmers would get another $350 million in special assistance and the national animal identification program less money than expected under the fiscal year 2010 agriculture appropriations bill that was approved Sept. 30 by Hous...
WASHINGTON -- Dairy farmers would get another $350 million in special assistance and the national animal identification program less money than expected under the fiscal year 2010 agriculture appropriations bill that was approved Sept. 30 by House and Senate conferees.
The bill is expected to come to the House and Senate floors soon.
Congress has been struggling with how best to figure out to help dairy farmers, who have been faced with plummeting exports and decreased prices while input costs have remained fairly high.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was the author of a dairy amendment that the Senate added to its version of the Agriculture appropriations bill in August. The House did not have a provision, but House conferees agreed to include it.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Chairman Herb Kohl, D-Wis., said the bill will include $60 million for cheese and dairy product purchases for food banks and other nutrition and feeding programs, and $290 million in direct support to dairy farmers using guidelines to be determined by the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack under an expedited process.
Sanders' amendment provided for an increase in the dairy support price, but dairy and farm groups have been split on how the money should be distributed. Another option would be an increase in the Milk Income Loss Contract program, but payments under that program are limited to a certain level of production.
Larger dairy producers, particularly in the western states, say it benefits smaller producers in the Midwest and Northeast disproportionately. Leaving the final decisions on distributing the aid up to Vilsack probably means that he could provide more aid to large western producers than would be possible if he using only the MILC program formula.
In and out
The overall Agriculture appropriations bill would provide $23.5 billion in discretionary spending, $2.7 billion more than the 2009 bill and $325 million more than the president's request.
The bill also covers $97.3 billion in mandatory spending compared with $87.8 billion in the 2009 bill and the president's request of $100.85 billion. Most of the mandatory money goes for the supplemental nutrition assistance program that used to be known as food stamps and for farm subsidies.
The House bill had zeroed out funding for the controversial national animal identification program, but the final bill contains $5.3 million for it, along with "strong report language" directing the Agriculture Department to improve it, House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said.
The Senate bill had provided $9.2 million for an animal identification, DeLauro added.
The bill also allows USDA to proceed with a rule that will allow the importation of processed chicken meat from China, but requires USDA to intensify its inspections.
Attached is a measure to extend the child nutrition programs for one year. Congress failed to reauthorize the child nutrition programs, which include school lunch and the special program for pregnant women, infants and children known as WIC, before they expired Sept. 30.
The programs have been extended for 30 days in the fiscal year 2010 legislative branch appropriations bill. Congress is expected to undertake the extension process in 2010.