FY09 AGRICULTURE SPENDING BILL APPROVED BY SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee today approved the FY2009 Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, to provide more than $97.2 billion in funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a range of agriculture, nutrition, and food and drug safety programs. U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, worked with Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT), the subcommittee's ranking member, to report the bill approved by the subcommittee today.
"With many worthwhile programs in need -- and federal funding scarce -- we worked to strike a balance in making investments in our farms and rural economies, the safety of our food and drug supply, and the nutrition needs of our most helpless citizens and those who are suffering from hunger abroad," Kohl said.
Nutrition: - Under this bill, the Women, Infants & Children Program (WIC) would be funded at $6.75 billion, an increase of $1.13 billion over last year's non-emergency level and $650 million more than requested by the President last February in his budget submission. Rising food and participation costs necessitate the increased funding.
- The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides food assistance to many elderly Americans, would be funded at $155 million in FY09, an increase of $15.285 million over last year's level. The President proposed to terminate this program.
- PL480 title II grants, the nation's foremost international food assistance program, would be funded at $1.2259 billion, the same as requested by the President. Chairman Kohl successfully included increased international food assistance in the Supplemental Appropriations bill that was signed into law earlier this year.
Food and Drug Safety:
- Funding for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, which is responsible for the safety of the nation's meat and poultry supplies, would increase by $43.446 million to $973.566 million. Of that sum, $21.6 million is needed to comply with new requirements under the Farm Bill, including those that facilitate inter-state commerce in state-inspected meat products.
- The FDA would be funded at $2.039 billion, an increase of $324.627 million over last year's level. Chairman Kohl has been pushing for more rigorous food safety initiatives, drug safety, and generic drugs which are more cost effective for consumers.
- Though the bill reduces earmarks for special research grants under the USDA's Cooperative State Research, Extension and Education Service (CSREES), it provides an increase for formula-based funding which support land grant colleges and historically black colleges and universities. When combined with research funds available under the Farm Bill, it totals a net increase of nearly $30 million over last year's level.
- The committee rejected the President's proposal to terminate funds for Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations, Resource Conservation and Development, and the Healthy Forest Reserve Program. These programs would be funded under the bill at $29.79 million, $50.73 million, and $1.986 million respectively.
- For watershed rehabilitation the bill provides $20 million in new budget authority and allows obligation of $30 million in mandatory Farm Bill funds for a total of $50 million.