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Appropriations Committee Sends Agriculture Funding Bill to House Floor

June 7, 2019


US Capitol. Credit: USDA

This week, the House Appropriations Committee debated and advanced their Agriculture Appropriations bill for fiscal year (FY) 2020. The bill passed in Committee 29-21 along party lines, and will now be sent to the floor of the full House for consideration. Following bill passage, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) applauded appropriators for critical funding for food and agriculture programs at levels that met or exceeded NSAC’s requests for FY 2020. We were also pleased to see that House appropriators included bill language that, if enacted, would block the Administration’s proposal to relocate and reorganize the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

In this post, NSAC provides a recap of sustainable agriculture highlights from the House Appropriations Committee’s bill (which largely mirrors the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee’s bill), as well as next steps on the overall FY 2020 budget and appropriations process.

Bill Highlights

In a strong rejection of the President’s proposed cuts to overall spending for food and agriculture programs, the House bill would provide $24.3 billion in discretionary funding. This represents an overall increase of $1 billion above the FY 2019 enacted level. NSAC is pleased that within that overall increase, the bill meets or exceeds all of the Coalition’s funding requests for FY 2020.

The chart below highlights the funding levels included in the Committee passed bill for the priorities that were included in NSAC’s FY 2020 appropriations testimony, which was submitted both to the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees.

  FY 2019
Enacted
Funding
President’s
FY 2020
Budget
Request
FY 2020 House Appropriations Committee
Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach $3,000,000 (plus $30,000,000 in mandatory funding) $30,000,000 in mandatory funding $10,000,000 (plus $30,000,000 in mandatory funding)
Local Agriculture Market Program $17,500,000 (plus $50,000,000 in mandatory funding) $50,000,000 in mandatory funding $23,400,000 (plus $50,000,000 in mandatory funding)
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education $37,000,000 $19,000,000 $45,000,000
Food Safety Outreach Program $8,000,000 $4,000,000 $10,000,000
Farm Bill Conservation Programs No cuts to mandatory funding Proposed elimination of CSP and cut to ACEP No cuts to mandatory funding
Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network $2,000,000 $0 $10,000,000
Conservation Technical Assistance $725,900,000 $655,000,000 $725,960,000
Farm Service Agency Loans $7,740,000,000 $7,415,000,000 $7,776,000,000
Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program $3,000,000 $0 $6,000,000
Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas $2,800,000 $0 $3,000,000
Organic Transitions Integrated Research Program $6,000,000 $0 $8,000,000

For a more detailed breakdown of funding levels included in the House Appropriations Committee’s FY 2020 agriculture spending bill, you can view NSAC’s updated appropriations chart here. Further details can also be found via the press release NSAC issued following the Committee’s passage, of the bill as well as our blog covering the Subcommittee’s markup.

Report Language and Amendments

Prior to moving their spending bill to the full Committee, the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee released the bill’s accompanying report, which outlines the specific funding levels for many programs and subprograms. The report language also includes direction to USDA and FDA regarding the utilization of FY 2020 funds. In addition to specifying many of the funding levels above, the report also includes several pieces of report language relevant to sustainable agriculture priorities, including the following:

  • Directives related to climate change and agriculture, including directions for USDA to conduct a survey on the programs that support farmers in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The report language also directs USDA to identify opportunities to expand this work going forward. There is also language encouraging Rural Development to partner with USDA’s Climate Hubs in order to enhance resilience to future impacts of climate change.
  • Expansion upon the bill’s language prohibiting the proposed relocation of ERS and NIFA and the realignment of ERS. The report underscores Members’ serious concerns about the Administration’s process and proposal.
  • Direction for the Committee to be briefed on ongoing efforts related to organic production data collection.
  • Expansion upon the bill’s language directing USDA to move forward with issuing final guidance regarding the origin of organic livestock, citing widespread support from the organic industry.
  • Direction on targeting NRCS conservation assistance to reduce nutrient loading from agricultural sources that can contribute to the growth of harmful algal blooms.
  • Underscoring of the importance of increasing staffing levels at Rural Development State offices.
  • Affirmation of the important role that farmers markets play in establishing connections between farmers and consumers. The report cites concerns about decline in markets in rural communities, and directs USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service to provide a report on the status of farmers market in rural areas and actions USDA can take to help them remain economically viable.

The full Committee markup also included discussion and votes on several amendments that were offered by Members. Amendments related to hog slaughtering line speeds, the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers, and human embryo research were adopted by the Committee. Conversely, amendments to raise the minimum age for tobacco sales and to exempt military personnel from such a raise were rejected by the Committee.

Next Steps

There’s still a long road ahead for Congress to get final FY 2020 spending legislation finalized and signed into law by the President in advance of the upcoming September 30 deadline. Among the many obstacles in their path, reaching a bipartisan deal to lift the caps on discretionary spending remains the most recalcitrant. NSAC recently partnered with several other organizations within the food and agriculture community on a letter urging Congress to include food and agriculture priorities in any final budget deal.

The House is currently moving groups of appropriations bills (aka “minibuses”) forward to the full House floor for consideration as packages. Next week, the House will bring its first minibus to the floor, which includes five bills: Labor-Health and Human Services-Education; Legislative Branch; Defense; State-Foreign Operations; and Energy and Water Development. It’s expected that the House’s agriculture spending bill will hitch a ride on the next minibus; likely moving forward in the next few weeks. House leadership has said that they plan to bring all 12 appropriations bills to the floor by the end of June.

Senate appropriators have yet to release or markup any of their FY 2020 spending bills, and are still waiting on topline numbers for overall discretionary spending. For more details on the overall budget negotiations and challenges, read our blog on the FY 2020 budget here. NSAC will continue to report on the FY 2020 budget and appropriations process as things move forward.


Categories: Budget and Appropriations


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