June 12, 2014
[Update to Original Post — The House majority has now decided to not bring the agriculture spending bill back to the floor next week. The delay appears to be related in part to the leadership contest going on in light of the Majority Leader losing his primary election. The chairman of the Appropriations Committee is now saying they will resume consideration of the bill sometime later this summer. Whether that means in two weeks or much later than that is not known at this time.]
On Wednesday, June 11, the House of Representatives began debating its FY 2015 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, which funds USDA and FDA programs. The House considered 16 amendments and adopted half of them. Most significantly, they approved increasing funding for school breakfast equipment grants by $8.15 million to bring the total to the full $35 million that USDA had requested, and approved a $10 million amendment to provide some modest funding to purchase food aid in the country or region where the aid is being directed rather than shipping US commodities.
The House is expected to resume consideration of the bill as early as Tuesday of next week. Many amendments have been filed and will be voted upon at that time, including a major showdown vote on whether to strip from the bill a rider that would grant states waivers from nutritional standards for school meals.
Included on the list is an amendments is one to be offered by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) to protect the right of livestock, poultry, and hog farmers to speak out against contract abuses and retaliation by multinational meatpacking corporations. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) wrote to the House in support of the amendment, along with 13 other farm, rural, and consumer groups, including National Farmers Union, R-CALF (USA), and the Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform. The American Farm Bureau Federation also wrote separately to the House supporting the amendment.
The NSAC-led missive said, in part, “The appropriations GIPSA rider is now blocking a rule that would prohibit companies from retaliating against farmers for exercising their free speech and association rights, including talking to Members of Congress or USDA officials about the abuses they experience. The rider also blocks a measure to require companies to provide a farmer, upon request, with the statistical information and data used to calculate the farmer’s pay. The Pingree amendment would allow USDA to continue in the rulemaking process on these two issues – free speech and pricing transparency — giving USDA enforcement power to protect farmers and ranchers from retaliation, deception and fraud.”
In addition to the nutrition standards amendment and the Pingree livestock and poultry contract fairness amendment, we also expect several amendments to prohibit crop insurance and commodity subsidies to wealthy individuals.
Click here for more information about the House appropriations bill; or read our post from last week for an account of the House Appropriations Committee’s consideration of the bill earlier this month.
Double Barreled Action Possible
Also next week, the Senate will consider its own agriculture appropriations bill as part of a three-bill package with the Commerce-Justice-Science and Transportation-House and Urban Development funding bills. This means its possible the House and Senate will both be debating and voting on the agriculture appropriations bill at the same time, though as we publish this blog, there are also rumors floating that the House may delay resumption of their floor consideration of the agriculture bill for an additional week. That is unconfirmed however.
Stay tuned for more information as the Senate begins consideration of the FY 2015 agriculture appropriations bill next week and the House likely resumes consideration of their counterpart measure.