Today, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year (FY) 2014 agricultural appropriations bill, which the House Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee passed on June 5. The bill sets discretionary funding at $19.5 billion, which is $1.3 billion below the FY 2013 enacted level, but is roughly equal to the FY2013 level minus the cuts imposed by the across-the-board budget cut “sequestration” process. You can read our previous post for a detailed description of program funding levels and important report language.
As in previous years, the full Committee markup included consideration of a variety of amendments. Of principal concern, an amendment offered by Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) to limit protections for livestock farmers passed 29-17, mostly along party lines. The amendment, which NSAC vigorously opposes, further limits USDA’s ability to administer a contract fairness rule – known as the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule – to protect farmers who contract with large meatpacking companies. The rule was developed to implement provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill. By means of a similar legislative rider, the final FY 2013 appropriations bill forced USDA to repeal existing contract fairness rules and prohibited the Department from administered any new protections through the rules. The Womack amendment carries this prohibition into FY 2014.
In addition to the GIPSA amendment, representatives offered amendments related to nutrition, futures trading, poultry inspection, and other issues. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) offered unsuccessful amendments to restore funding for the Commodity Futures Tradition Corporation (CFTC) and for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) offered an amendment to replace sequestration, which was also voted down. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) successfully offered an unprecedented amendment to limit funding for some USDA salaries unless error rates for child nutrition programs are reduced. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) offered an amendment to establish a national hunger commission, which passed with broad bipartisan support. A number of Democratic members noted the irony in providing for a national hunger commission while concurrently cutting WIC funding.
The appropriations bill will now move to the House floor, perhaps after the House takes up the 2013 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is expected on the House floor next week. The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee is expected to consider its version of the FY 2014 funding bill on June 18, followed by the full Senate Appropriations Committee on June 20.