January 3, 2014
Leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are making progress towards reaching a deal on the Farm Bill. Proposals for dealing with the commodity title were recently shared with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to determine costs of the policy changes. Indications are that the CBO scores are encouraging, which will enable the committees to move forward. However, it is clear that a deal will not be complete by the end of 2013. This prompted the House to pass a one month extension of the 2008 Farm Bill shortly before they adjourned for the holidays on December 13th. The House passed the month long extension to avoid what is termed the "Dairy Cliff", which could result in a doubling of the price for a gallon of milk. However, the Senate is resisting passage of the short term extension. Senate leaders believe that a Farm Bill can be completed before USDA is ready to implement permanent law and trigger milk price increases. USDA has indicated that it will take some time for it to implement permanent law and that as long as a Farm Bill is completed in January dairy prices will not be impacted.
On December 11th, the Food and Drug Administration published a set of final voluntary rules to phase out certain antibiotic use in farm animals. The plan is intended to help phase out the use of medically important antimicrobials in food animals for food production purposes, such as to enhance growth or improve feed efficiency. The plan would also phase in veterinary oversight of the remaining appropriate therapeutic uses of such drugs. Representatives from the animal health industry signaled support for the voluntary policy, while consumer groups stated concern that the rules don't go far enough. Click here for more information on FDA's policies on antimicrobial resistance.
The House and Senate Conference Committee on the Budget have reached an agreement on the U.S. budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. This agreement will provide topline spending levels for the appropriations committee and help bring more certainty to the federal budget process for the next two years.
Once the budget conference agreement is adopted it will allow House and Senate Appropriators to begin negotiations on how to divvy up the total $1.012 trillion ($520.46 billion for defense discretionary, and $491.77 billion for non-defense discretionary) spending level among the 12 Appropriations Subcommittees for FY 2014. The 2014 level is down from the 2013 level of $1.028 trillion but is $45 billion above the $967 billion level mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (sequestration level). The FY 2015 topline number totals $1.014 trillion ($521.37 billion for defense and $492.45 billion for non-defense discretionary).
Reports indicate that Congress has negotiated the funding levels, known as "302(b) allocations," for the 12 subcommittees, but these numbers have not yet been made public. This process determines the amount of funding that will be available for the various appropriations bills, including agriculture. Subcommittee leaders have been tasked with drafting their bills by January 2nd, in hopes that an omnibus spending package can be approved by January 10th. In order to avoid another government shutdown the 12 appropriations bills must be enacted by January 15 when the current Continuing Resolution (P.L. 113-46) expires.