House vs. Senate ag spending bills

House vs. Senate ag spending bills

Agricultural appropriations bill pass committees with some similarities and differences heading into limited days before Oct. 1 deadline.

The week following the House Appropriations Committee marking up its agricultural spending bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up theirs as well with some differences existing between the two chambers.

Line by line many of the spending amounts are roughly the same with $2.7 billion for agricultural research in both. The House withholds 5% of the agency’s funding until ARS takes certain steps in wake of the fallout from animal welfare concerns at a Nebraska research facility, while the Senate’s approved manager’s amendment contained non-binding report language that directs ARS procedures meet requirements of the Animal Welfare Act.

Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., helped shepherd quick and nearly unanimous pasage of the Senate's agricultural appropriations bill on Thursday, July 16.

The funding bills have just a $5 million difference in the amount for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Both chambers gave the Farm Service Agency received approximately $1.5 billion for farm, conservation and emergency loan programs. The Senate specifically prohibits the closure of FSA county offices.

Similar to the House, the Senate approved bill would extend a waiver from the whole-grains requirements for school meals. The Senate also forces the U.S. Department of Agriculture to delay the end of an import ban on beef from Brazil and Argentina. Both versions also left out a long-time rider within the spending bills what has been commonly referred to as the GIPSA rider to prohibit funding the Grain Inspection and Packers and Stockyards Act agency from implementing a rule that supporters say provides livestock and poultry fair markets and contracts laws.  

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, was successful in obtaining approval of her amendment which would require labeling for genetically engineered salmon. She downplayed concerns that salmon labeling would set a precedent for labeling biotech crops saying, “Corn doesn’t swim from one field to another and propagate with corn in another state. Fish move. Fish escape,” she said.

During full committee action, Senators also approved reinstituting a ban on funding inspections at horse slaughter facilities. Cattle groups had welcomed the omission of the horse slaughter ban in the House version, but senators approved the ban by a voice vote.  

The Senate version also seeks to limit the writing of new dietary guidelines from including environmental factors. The bill doesn’t go as far as the House Agriculture and Labor-Health and Human Services funding bills which actually restrict which evidence the Obama administration can use in writing the recommendations. The Senate provision, which is identical to language in the Senate Labor-HHS spending bill, says the new guidelines should be “solely nutritional and dietary in nature; and based only on a preponderance of nutritional and dietary scientific evidence and not extraneous information.”

The Senate bill allows the Conservation Stewardship Program – a conservation program on working lands – to proceed at the level dictated by the 2014 Farm bill. Both the House and President’s budget cut CSP funding. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program saw levels cut by 18% in both the House and Senate bills.

The House has also included a one-year delay in implementation of the conservation compliance to receive crop insurance premium support. The Senate version did not. Sign-ups ended June 1 and USDA reported July 10 over 98% of farmers have turned in the proper forms and the remaining small percentage is likely farmers no longer farming or filing discrepancies.

The House has completed mark ups of all of its spending bill within committee. Democrats have said they’ll not consider any spending bills for full floor votes until an agreement can be reached to avoid sequestration. The new spending year is supposed to start Oct. 1.

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