June 30, 2010
On Wednesday, June 30, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee marked up and approved the annual spending bill for USDA and FDA for FY 2011. The bill was adopted after a series of ten Republican amendments were defeated on party line votes.
The bill as a whole came in at $23.1 billion, about $200 million less than FY 2010 and just a hair under the amount requested by the Administration. The Food and Drug Administration funding was $2.6 billion, with most of the rest going to USDA.
In a huge victory for sustainable agriculture, the Subcommittee bill adopts the USDA-requested level of $30 million for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) competitive grants program, a 50 percent increase over current year funding. The new funding includes $10 million to launch the SARE Federal-State Matching program that was authorized in 1990 but has never before received funding.
Other important victories included a restoration of the $5 million funding level for Organic Transitions research, a program proposed for termination by the Obama Administration.
For the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the Subcommittee increased funding by $50 million over current year levels to $312 million. This was considerably less than the $429 million requested by the Administration, though still a very sizable increase.
With respect to 2008 Farm Bill programs with mandatory spending, Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) held true to form and to promises and limited cuts to the customary $270 million cut in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), bringing it to $1.32 billion, and the zeroing out of the small watersheds dam rehabilitation program. A GOP amendment brought by Representative Rodney Alexander (R-LA) to kill the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) failed on a party line vote. The Obama Administration had proposed significant cuts to multiple farm bill conservation programs, but most of those were rejected by the Subcommittee.
No limitations were placed on farm bill programs with mandatory funding for beginning farmers, minority farmers, farmers markets, organic research, rural microenterprise, renewable energy, biomass crop assistance, or specialty crops.
The bill matches the USDA request for $3 million for the new Office of Advocacy and Outreach (which deals with small, beginning and minority farmer issues and farmworker issues) and $4 million for a farm labor grant program to be administered by the new Office.
The National Organic Program would also receive the requested level of $10.1 million, a $3.1 million increase over current levels.
The new Healthy Food Financing Initiative to support loans and grants to build grocery stores and other types of markets in food deserts, an initiative backed by the First Lady, gets $40 million in the bill. An amendment offered by Ranking Member Jack Kingston (R-GA) to scale it back to $5 million was defeated on a party-line vote. The bill also provides $2 million to USDA to help staff its Farm to School Tactical Teams to help school districts purchase more local food from local farms.
The regional rural innovation initiative proposed by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to set-aside funds from within existing programs to support regionally-based rural development efforts, including for development of local and regional food systems, was scaled back in the Subcommittee bill relative to the USDA request, but survived. It too was the subject an amendment to remove it from the bill, sponsored by Representative JoAnn Emerson (R-MO). Like the other amendments, this one failed on a party-line vote.
We are still awaiting details on a variety of other priority programs for the sustainable agriculture community and will hopefully report on those in a follow-up posting soon.
It is not yet clear what happens next to this bill. Normally, it heads to another markup in full committee within a week or two, but it is uncertain this year whether there will be a full committee markup or not. Senate subcommittee markup is expected at some point in July. Many observers then think the bill will be put on hold until after the November elections, though nothing is certain at this point in time.
To read more about NSAC’s appropriations campaign, look here.
Categories: Budget and Appropriations