On Tuesday, May 14th, the Senate Agriculture Committee met to consider its version of the Farm Bill, S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013. The Senate Farm Bill is very similar to the package that was passed by the Senate in 2012. The text of the bill, along with a summary can be found on the Senate Agriculture Committee website.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate bill would save over $23 billion. Much of the savings comes from revisions to commodity programs, consolidating programs and addressing fraud in nutrition programs. The committee approved the bill by a margin of 15-5. Republicans opposing the bill were mainly from the Midwest and expressed concerns about the direction of the commodity title. The lone Democrat voting against the bill was Senator Gillibrand (D-NY), who is opposed to the $4 billion in savings achieved by the changes to nutrition programs.
The Research Title of the Senate Farm Bill reauthorizes USDA’s major research, extension and education programs including the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). As passed last year, the Senate bill also includes authorization for a new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which would create a non-governmental foundation as a new mechanism to support agriculture research. The bill provides $100 million in mandatory funding to seed the foundation. The Senate bill also includes budget submission language that would require USDA to provide details of competitive grant program priorities and requests for proposals each year.
Specific to animal science, the Senate bill includes authority for a new Farm Animal Agriculture Integrated Research Initiative. This new initiative, developed and promoted by the National Association for the Advancement of Animal Science, would establish a competitive grants program to address the three priority focal areas identified by the FAIR 2012 priority setting process. Emphasis would be placed on food security, one health and stewardship. The bill includes an authorization of $50 million per year that would be subject to funding through the annual appropriations process. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) both filed an amendment to include the initiative in the Senate Farm Bill. The amendment was included in the manager’s package of en bloc amendments and approved by voice vote.
Floor consideration of the Farm Bill in the Senate began the week of May 20th and is scheduled to resume June 3rd after the Memorial Day recess. Almost 200 amendments have been filed, with the most hotly debated amendments thus far dealing with nutrition programs and crop insurance.
The House Agriculture Committee followed suit by considering its version of the Farm Bill, H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 on Wednesday, May 15th. CBO estimates that the House bill would save nearly $40 billion, with savings coming from revisions to nutrition and commodity programs as well as consolidation of some conservation programs. The committee approved the bill by a margin of 36 – 10. The biggest controversies surround changes to nutrition programs, which would save over $20 billion. The text of the bill and summaries can be found on the House Agriculture Committee website.
The Research Title of the House bill includes many of the same reauthorizations of core USDA programs, along with budget submission requirements. The House bill does not include authorization for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research or the new animal science initiative. The House is expected to conduct floor consideration of the Farm Bill in June.
On May 23rd, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a final rule to modify the labeling provisions for muscle cut commodities covered under the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program. The final rule modifies the labeling provisions for muscle cut covered commodities to require the origin designations to include information about where each of the production steps (i.e., born, raised, slaughtered) occurred and removes the allowance for commingling of muscle cuts. The changes were driven by the desire to bring the program into compliance with World Trade Organization requirements. The USDA release was met with mixed reactions. Officials from Canada and Mexico stated that the new rule does not go far enough to meet WTO obligations. Some U.S. organizations have expressed support for the new rule, while others complain that it will only make labeling more complicated and costly. More information on country of origin labeling can be found by clicking here.
FASS Sponsors Annual Symposium in Washington
The FASS Scientific Advisory Committee on Food Safety, Animal Health and Animal Drugs will host its annual symposium in Washington, DC on June 4th. Topics to be addressed in this year’s symposium include antibiotics, implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, agricultural research policy and the Farm Bill. Speakers will include 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. More information on the symposium can be found on the FASS website.
The ASAS Zimbleman/Hafs Internship Program is supporting two students in Washington, DC this summer. Jordan Hieber, an animal science major from North Dakota State University will be interning in the Office of Communications at the United States Department of Agriculture. Jessie Nickerson, a Master’s Degree student at West Virginia University, will be interning in the office of Congressman Chris Gibson, a member of the House Agriculture Committee from Jessie’s home state of New York. FASS Washington Representatives Lowell Randel and Walt Smith assisted Jordan and Jessie with their internship placements and will provide support to the interns during their time in Washington.