On Thursday, June 13th, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2014 Agriculture Appropriations Bill by a voice vote. The bill would provide $19.5 billion in discretionary funding, which is $1.3 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and approximately equal to the current level caused by automatic sequestration spending cuts. Under the committee passed bill, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) would be funded at a level of $1.074 billion. For the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the bill provides $236 million for the Hatch Act and $290 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). Smith Lever 3(b) and (c) programs would receive $294 million. All of these numbers are the same as the enacted level of funding provided in FY 2013. However, it is important to note that the actual funding for programs FY 2013 was considerably less than the enacted amount due to sequestration and an across the board rescission. A full copy of the House version can be found by clicking here. The bill is expected to be considered on the House floor after Congress returns from the July 4th break.
On Thursday, June 20th, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2014 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The overall funding provided in the bill for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is $996.74 million, just over $43 million more than was provided by the companion House bill passed earlier this month. Under the committee passed bill, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) would be funded at a level of $1.123 billion. For the NIFA the bill provides $243 million for the Hatch Act ($5 million more than the House version) and $316.4 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), an increase of $40 million from the current year. Smith Lever 3(b) and (c) programs would receive $300 million. All of these numbers are increases to the previous year’s enacted levels and higher than those proposed in the House version of the bill. It is anticipated the Senate will consider the Agriculture Appropriations bill on the Senate floor in the near future.
During the week of June 17th, the House of Representatives took up H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (FARRM Act). Over 100 amendments were up for consideration during the debate which culminated in a vote on final passage on June 20th. The House version of the Farm Bill failed upon consideration by a vote of 195-234.
Defections from Republicans seeking further cuts to spending in the bill and Democrats who opposed the cuts to nutrition programs included in the legislation made passage impossible in the end despite a push of support from House Republican Leadership. The carefully crafted bipartisan bill looked poised for passage until just before the final vote when an amendment, which mandated work requirements of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants, was passed on a largely partisan vote. This amendment to the program formerly known as “food stamps,” coupled with a handful of other amendments which peeled away supporters, spelled the death knell for the legislation upon the final vote.
Prospects for the bill are unclear at this point with the possibility of a complete rewrite being considered. Congress must address the expiration of all programs authorized in the Farm Bill before September 30, 2013 when the statutory authority for these programs expires. There is some talk that the House may take up a more partisan version of the bill for consideration in order to gain enough Republican votes for passage. This would enable the bill to get off the House floor and into a conference committee. Another option which is being considered by House Republican Leadership is to split the bill into two separate and distinct bills with the focus of one being farm programs and traditional agriculture areas such as research and the other focused on nutrition programs. Committee Leadership has voiced their opposition to this strategy as they see it as even harder to strike deals which Senate Democrats should this concept be pursued.
In contrast to the consideration of the Farm Bill in the House, the Senate passed S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 (the Senate version of the Farm Bill), by a margin of 69 – 27. Included in the Senate bill is authorization for a new competitive grants program focused on animal science. More information about the Senate passed version of the Farm Bill, including a summary and detailed text, can be found by clicking here.
While the Senate passed the Farm Bill with a wide bipartisan margin, its opposition by urban Democrats over cuts to nutrition programs and conservative Republicans, provided a glimpse at what was to come in the House. Conservatives in both chambers were pressured by groups such as the Heritage Foundation and Club for Growth to oppose the Farm Bill because they believe its’ costs remained too high and did not go far enough in reforming nutrition programs. Liberals were pressured to oppose the House version of the bill because it produced over $20 billion in savings from nutrition programs alone.
The FASS Scientific Advisory Committee on Food Safety, Animal Health and Animal Drugs held its annual symposium in Washington, DC on June 4th. Topics addressed in this year’s symposium include antibiotics, implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, agricultural research policy and the Farm Bill. Speakers included representatives from the Food and Drug Administration, United States Department of Agriculture, industry and academia. FASS Washington Representatives Lowell Randel and Walt Smith worked closely with the committee to identify topics and secure speakers for the event. Thanks to the American Society of Animal Science for its financial sponsorship of the 2013 symposium. Copies of the presentations given at the symposium can be found on the FASS website by clicking here.
FASS Washington Representatives Lowell Randel and Walt Smith will participate in the 2013 Joint Annual Meeting of ADSA and ASAS in Indianapolis. Lowell and Walt will meet with the ADSA and ASAS Boards of Directors as well as spend time in the FASS Booth.