The House Appropriations Committee today released the fiscal year 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow. The proposed legislation funds several important and necessary government programs and services, including food safety, animal and plant health, rural development and farm services, and nutrition programs. In total, the legislation includes $19.4 billion in discretionary funding -- a cut of $365 million below last year's level, and a cut of $1.7 billion below the President's budget request.
"American farmers and ranchers are the backbone of nearly every rural community in the nation. This bill provides responsible funding for the programs and services they need, and helps promote development and economic growth in rural communities across the country. At the same time, this bill preserves resources for food safety, reduces discretionary spending, and streamlines programs to steer precious tax dollars where they are best used," House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said.
Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston has also commented on the bill:
"American agriculture is the envy of the world, feeding not only our country but much of the globe. This legislation builds on the bipartisan work of our subcommittee to support agriculture and nutrition, and increase efficiency and effectiveness at the Agriculture Department and the agencies we oversee. It will help ensure a safe and abundant food supply and spur rural economic growth while checking the growth of government using common-sense reforms."
The agencies and programs in this bill will receive a total of $140.7 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding, a reduction of more than $3.7 billion from the President's request.
The production, promotion, research and marketing programs funded in this bill will help support over $134.5 billion in U.S. agricultural exports this year -- the second-highest level on record. These exports support more than one million American jobs.
Food and Nutrition Programs -- The legislation contains discretionary funding, as well as required mandatory funding, for food and nutrition programs within the Department of Agriculture. This includes funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Child Nutrition programs.
WIC -- The bill provides $6.9 billion in discretionary funding for WIC, which is $303.5 million above last year's level and $119 million below the President's request. This program provides supplemental nutritional foods needed by pregnant and nursing mothers, and babies and young children. Language is included for oversight and monitoring requirements to ensure the proper use of taxpayer dollars, as well as food price tracking to ensure necessary resources continue serving those eligible for program benefits.
Child nutrition programs -- The bill provides for $19.7 billion in required mandatory funding -- which is outside the discretionary funding jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee -- for child nutrition programs. This is $1.5 billion above last year's level and $38 million below the President's request. This includes funding for an estimated 5.7 billion free or reduced-price school lunches and snacks for children that qualify for the program.
SNAP -- The bill provides for $80 billion in required mandatory spending -- which is outside the discretionary funding jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee -- for SNAP. This is $408 million below last year's level and $2 billion below the President's budget request. This program provides food assistance to more than 46 million Americans every month. The legislation also includes new, stringent reporting requirements to help weed out and eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in the program, such as a requirement for states to include the fraud hotline number on all EBT cards, a directive to the Secretary of Agriculture to ban fraudulent vendors, and a requirement for states to share data with enforcement agencies.
Agriculture Research -- The bill provides $2.5 billion for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture. This is a reduction of $35 million below last year's level. This funding will support high-priority research on devastating crop diseases, food safety, and water quality. The bill also maintains responsible investments in the nation's land-grant colleges and universities.
Animal and Plant Health -- The legislation includes $787 million -- $33 million below last year's level -- for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. This funding will continue support for programs to help control or eradicate plant and animal pests and diseases that can be devastating to U.S. farms and agricultural industries.
Conservation Programs -- The bill provides $812 million -- a decrease of $16 million below last year's level -- for the Natural Resources Conservation Service to help farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners conserve, enhance, and protect their land. The bill also provides $14.7 million in conservation funding for dam rehabilitation to help small communities ensure their small watershed projects meet current safety standards.
Rural Economic Development -- The bill provides a total of $2.1 billion for rural development programs -- a decrease of $180 million from last year's level. These programs support basic rural infrastructure, provide opportunities for rural businesses and industries, and help balance the playing field in local housing markets to create an environment for job and economic growth across rural America.
Business and Industry Loans -- The legislation includes $65.3 million -- $9.5 million below last year -- for the rural business and industry loan program. This funding will support $661 million in loans to help small businesses in rural areas, many of which face unique challenges due to local economic conditions and difficulty accessing capital.
Rural Infrastructure -- The legislation includes responsible investments in basic rural infrastructure needs. This includes $484 million for rural water and waste programs, $7.3 billion for rural electric and telephone infrastructure loans, $15 million for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine program, which addresses educational and health needs in rural communities, and $21 million for rural broadband loans.
Rural Housing Loans and Rental Assistance -- The bill provides a total of $24.9 billion in loan authority for the Single Family Housing direct and guaranteed loan programs, which provide low-income rural families -- many of whom would have few loan options for purchasing a home because of their geographical location -- with home loan assistance. In addition, $886 million -- $18 million below last year's level -- is provided for rental assistance to provide affordable housing for low-income families and the elderly in rural communities.
Food Safety and Inspection Service -- The legislation includes $996 million for food safety and inspection programs -- which is equal to the President's budget request and a decrease of $9 million below last year's level. These mandatory inspection activities play a significant role in maintaining the safety and productivity of the country's $832 billion meat and poultry industry.
The funding in the bill will maintain critical meat, poultry, and egg product inspection and testing activities, and support the implementation of a poultry inspection program to improve safety and inspection efficiency. This voluntary inspection program is expected to reduce government costs by $85-$95 million over three years, and reduce costs to private businesses by a total of $250 million.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -- The FDA receives a total of almost $ 2.5 billion in discretionary funding in the bill, a cut of $16.3 million, or 0.7%, below last year's level. Total funding for the FDA, including user fees, is $3.8 billion.
Farm Service Agency (FSA) -- The legislation provides $1.5 billion for the FSA, which is $23.8 million below last year's level. This funding will support the delivery of certain farm, conservation, loan, and emergency programs for American farmers and ranchers.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) -- Included in the bill is $180 million for the CFTC, a cut of $25 million below last year's level and $128 million below the President's budget request.
For the text of the subcommittee draft bill please visit: http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/BILLS-112-HR-SC-AP-FY13-Agriculture.pdf