The House Appropriations Committee subcommittee on ag Thursday morning approved a bill that outlines funding levels for government agriculture, nutrition, rural development and animal health efforts in fiscal year 2016.
As proposed, the bill totals $20.65 billion in discretionary funding, which is 1% or $175 million lower than the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $1.1 billion below the President's budget request. Including both discretionary and mandatory funding for various nutrition programs, the overall bill totals $143.9 billion.
According to the Committee, the bill targets programs that have the most benefit for the economy and American people while making cuts where there are inefficiencies or waste.
"The engine that drives the American economy is not necessarily built in factories but grown on American farms," said Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala. "This bill puts resources to work in areas that not only help farmers, ranchers, and growers everywhere, but also supports rural economic development and infrastructure."
A few notable changes in the bill include a provision that allows more time for restaurants, supermarkets and other retailers more time to comply with a new menu labeling law, and a provision that calls on the USDA Dietary Guidelines to focus only on food and nutrients and have a sound scientific evidence base.
The provision is the result of pushback from groups and legislators that took exception with the Dietary Guidelines' comments regarding sustainable food production.
The bill also continues existing provisions that allow schools demonstrating a financial hardship to seek an exemption from the whole grain nutrition standards in child nutrition programs, and prevents the implementation of further sodium reduction standards until the latest scientific research establishes the reduction is beneficial for children.
Additionally, the bill cuts funding for the Rural Energy for America Program from $50 million in mandatory funding to $35 million; and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program from $25 million in mandatory funding to $12 million.
More highlights of the bill as proposed by the Committee >>
• Agricultural Research – The bill provides $2.7 billion for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This funding will support research to help mitigate and stop devastating crop diseases, improve food safety and water quality, and combat antimicrobial resistance. This also includes important research investments in U.S. land-grant colleges and universities.
• Animal and Plant Health – The legislation includes $871 million – $15 million above the President's budget request and approximately the same as the fiscal year 2015 enacted level – for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. This funding will support programs to help control or eradicate plant and animal pests and diseases.
• Conservation Programs – The bill provides $840 million to help farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners conserve and protect their land. This includes $6 million in infrastructure rehabilitation funding to help small communities meet current safety standards for watershed projects.
• Farm Service Agency – The legislation provides $1.5 billion for FSA, which is approximately the same as the fiscal year 2015 level and the President's budget request. This funding will support the various farm, conservation, and emergency loan programs, and will help American farmers and ranchers with the implementation of the farm bill.
• Rural Development – The bill provides a total of $2.5 billion for rural development programs, which is $86 million above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level. These programs help create an environment for economic growth by supporting basic rural infrastructure, providing loans to increase opportunities for rural businesses and industries, and helping balance the playing field in local rural housing markets.
Food Safety and Inspection Service – The legislation includes $1 billion for food safety and inspection programs – approximately the same as the 2015 enacted level. These mandatory inspection activities help ensure the safety and productivity of the country's $186 billion meat and poultry industry. The funding provided will maintain more than 8,000 frontline inspection personnel for meat, poultry, and egg products at more than 6,400 facilities across the country.
Food and Drug Administration – The FDA receives a total of almost $2.6 billion in discretionary funding in the bill, an increase of $30 million over the fiscal year 2015 enacted level. Total funding for the FDA, including revenue from user fees, is $4.6 billion – $106 million above fiscal year 2015. Within this total, food safety activities are increased by $41.5 million, and medical product safety activities are increased by $4.2 million.
The bill also includes a policy provision delaying the implementation of a new menu labeling regulation by a year, to give restaurants, local supermarkets, grocery stores, and similar retail establishments adequate time to comply with the law.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission – Included in the bill is $250 million for the CFTC, the same as the 2015 enacted level and $72 million below the President's budget request.
International Programs – The legislation contains $1.8 billion for overseas food aid and to promote U.S. agricultural exports. This includes $1.4 billion – a $17 million increase above the President's request – for "Food for Peace" grants, and the requested level for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program.
Food and Nutrition Programs – The legislation contains discretionary funding, as well as mandatory funding required by law, for food and nutrition programs within the Department of Agriculture. This includes funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the Child Nutrition programs.