August 6, 2015
On Tuesday, July 14th, the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee met to consider its version of the fiscal year 2016 agriculture appropriations bill. The subcommittee passed the bill and sent it forward to the full Senate Appropriations Committee. The full committee approved the bill on July 16th. The text and report of the bill have not been released, but some high level numbers have been announced.
The Senate bill contains $143.8 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding, $24 billion below the President’s budget request and $3.7 billion below the FY2015 enacted level. The discretionary funding portion of the bill totals $20.51 billion, which is $65 million below the FY2015 enacted level. For agricultural research, the bill provides a total of $2.7 billion for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Under the Senate version, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative would be funded at $325 million, which is the same amount as last year. Hatch and Smith-Lever formula programs are also level funded at $244 million and $300 million, respectively.
Below is a table reflecting the levels for selected research accounts:
FY 2015 - FINAL
FY 2016 – President’s Budget
FY 2016 - House
FY 2016 - Senate
Agricultural Research Service
ARS Buildings and Facilities
NIFA Research and Education
Expanded Section 1433
NIFA Extension Activities
NIFA Integrated Activities
The manager’s amendment approved during the full committee meeting includes language related to animal welfare issues. The language, similar to that in the House bill, expresses concerns over the allegations of improper animal care at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center and directs ARS to ensure all its facilities conducting agricultural research comply with standards that are equivalent to the Animal Welfare Act. The language also directs ARS to enter into an agreement with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to have APHIS Animal Care conduct routine inspections of ARS facilities to ensure humane treatment of animals. The language further requires ARS to conduct a full review of its animal welfare policies and procedures and provide quarterly reports to the committee.
The committee has released a summary of the bill, which can be found here.
On Thursday, July 23rd, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015. The bill passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 275-150. The legislation requires companies to give the Food and Drug Administration a premarket notification regarding GMO products that includes the developer’s determination that the GMO product is as safe as a comparable non-GMO food. FDA would have the authority to object to the developer’s determination. Additionally, if FDA determines that there is a material difference between a GMO food and a comparable non-GMO food, FDA can specify labeling. The bill preempts states from implementing their own GMO labeling requirements.
The legislation also authorizes USDA, through the Agricultural Marketing Service, to develop a voluntary program for non-GMO food and directs FDA to regulate the use of “natural” on food labels. GCCA is an active member of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, which has been an active advocate for passage of the legislation. More information on the bill can be found on the GCCA Advocacy Portal.
The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration. To date, companion legislation has not been introduced in the Senate. However, several senators have indicated an interest in the issue.
The Animal Handling and Welfare Review Panel established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the final report of its findings from the Phase II review of the agency-wide animal care and well-being policies, procedures, and standards for agricultural livestock in research at the Agricultural Research Services (ARS). The Panel has transmitted the final report to the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics (NAREEE) Advisory Board for additional discussion and public comment.
Phase II of the review consisted of site visits to five additional ARS research locations conducting research on farm animals. While the report identifies areas where ARS processes can be improved, it was the “strong opinion of the panel that there was no evidence for misuse or abuse of animals at the ARS sites visited.” A copy of the final report can be found here.
The NAREEE Advisory Board will hold an open meeting via teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT on August 11, 2015, to hear a presentation of the report, discuss and identify additional recommendations to USDA, and receive public comment. Those interested in participating in the open meeting can register by clicking here.
On July 30th, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to examine the federal and state response to avian influenza. The subcommittee heard from federal and state experts involved in responding to the outbreak.
- Dr. David Swayne, Laboratory Director, Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory, USDA Agricultural Research Services, Athens, GA – Swayne Testimony
- Dr. John Clifford, Deputy Administrator, Veterinary Services, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Washington, DC – Clifford Testimony
- Dr. R. Douglas Meckes, State Veterinarian, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Raleigh, NC – Meckes Testimony
- Dr. Bill Hartmann, Executive Director, Minnesota Board of Animal Health, St. Paul, MN – Hartmann Testimony
An archived webcast of the hearing can be found here.
Washington Representatives Lowell Randel and Walt Smith participated in the Joint Annual Meeting of ADSA and ASAS in Orlando. Lowell and Walt met with both boards to update them on the latest policy developments in Washington, DC including appropriations, animal care and antibiotics policy issues. Lowell and Walt also spoke at the ASAS Business Meeting in Orlando. In addition, Lowell addressed the PSA board via conference call to share the latest information with PSA board members.