House ag subcommittee marks up spending bill

From the National Association of Wheat Growers

Yesterday, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee completed its markup of the FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill and passed it to the full committee, which is expected to take it up next week. The bill provides $21.3 billion in discretionary spending, which is $451 million below the FY 2016 enacted level and $281 million below the President Obama’s budget request. It does not appear to include any specific provisions cutting farm programs or crop insurance. Some details below:

Ag Research

$2.85 billion is included for agricultural research programs, covering both the Agricultural Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture budgets. For the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) competitive grants program, the President had requested a doubling of funding from the $350 million FY 2016 enacted level to $700 million ($375 million in discretionary spending and $325 million in mandatory spending), but the committee rejected the inclusion of new mandatory spending. The bill bumps up discretionary spending by $25 million to $375 million.

Farm Service Agency

The bill provides level funding of $1.51 billion for the Farm Service Agency (FSA).  Additionally, there is language included in the bill prohibiting FSA from closing FSA county offices as well as from permanently relocating county-based employees that would result in an office with two or fewer employees without first notifying and receiving approval from Congress.

Conservation

The bill caps the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) at 8 million acres for FY 2017 enrollment (down from 10 million acres); the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) is set at $225 million in FY 2017 funds. The Watershed Rehabilitation Program is limited to $9 million in FY 2017.

International Programs

$1.9 billion is included for overseas food aid programs and for promoting U.S. agricultural exports, according to the description provided by the committee.  The bill does include a $116 million increase above the President’s request for “Food for Peace” grants to $1.5 billion; $202 million is also included for the McGovern-Dole program. The bill text doesn’t appear to specify funding levels for the Market Access Program (MAP) or Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program; the bill report would specify these levels once it is released.

Biotech Education

The ag appropriations bill also includes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) budget. The FDA component of the bill includes $3 million for consumer outreach activities to promote understanding and acceptance of ag biotechnology and biotech-derived food products and animal feed.