On October 7th, the House passed the conference report of the Agriculture Appropriations bill (H.R. 2997), making key investments in public health, food safety, rural communities, conservation and other priorities:
To ensure the safety of the food accross America's kitchen tables, the bill invests in food inspections of the U.S. meat and poultry supply and enhances FDA oversight of the safety of domestic and imported food and medical products.
To protect low-income women, children and senior citizens faced with rising food costs and shrinking wages, the legislation increases nutrition aid to families and ensures that 9.6 million women and children receive healthy, nutritious food.
To protect consumers, the legislation gives the agency that regulates our commodities markets, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the staff and resources it needs to do its job.
To create opportunities for growth and development in rural communities hit by the economic crisis, the legislation builds on the success of the Recovery Act with investments in community facilities, housing, water projects and rural businesses.
To address the crisis plaguing dairy farmers, the bill includes aid for dairy farmers who are struggling with historically low prices.
Protecting Public Health
- Food and Drug Administration: Provides $2.3 billion, 15 percent more than 2009, to help FDA improve the safety of domestic and imported food and medical products, along with $893 million in user fees. With this, the FDA will be able to conduct 1,150 more foreign and domestic food inspections, do 20,000 more examinations of imported food, and conduct 3,300 more examinations of imported drug products, for example.
- Food Safety and Inspection Service: Provides over $1 billion for the first time in history, 5 percent more than 2009, for inspecting meat, poultry and egg products, helping to ensure the safety of these products.
- Imported Poultry Products from China: Includes language to ensure the protection of public health with respect to any poultry products exported from China to the U.S. by requiring audits and on-site reviews of facilities before any Chinese facilities are certified as eligible to ship poultry products to the U.S. and implementing a significantly increased level of port-of-entry re-inspections to ensure sanitary conditions.
- Country of Origin Labeling (COOL): Fully funds the costs to continue overseeing country of origin labeling for fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and other products.
- Inspection Pilot Program: Prohibits the Food Safety and Inspection Service from implementing a pilot program to inspect certain facilities using a risk-based model until it implements changes recommended by the USDA Inspector General.
Helping Those Hardest Hit by the Economic Crisis
- Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): Provides more than $7.25 billion, $392 million above 2009, to provide proper nutrition to mothers and their children for up to 9.6 million women, infants, and children. It also provides $162 million for a number of program improvements such as: increasing fruit and vegetable vouchers, supporting management information systems, implementing the electronic benefit transfer system, and expanding breast feeding peer counseling program.
- Commodity Supplemental Food Program: Provides $171 million, $11 million over 2009, to provide nutritious food to over a half million low-income women, infants, children, and elderly citizens struggling with rising food costs. To ensure that more families receive much-needed support during this economic downturn, the bill expands this critical food assistance in 32 current states and in 7 new states with USDA-approved feeding plans. These new states are: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Delaware, Utah, New Jersey, Georgia, and Maine.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Provides $58 billion, $4.3 billion over 2009 to provide food assistance to over 36 million low-income Americans. This includes an initiative to increase elderly participation, as only an estimated 30 percent of eligible seniors participate in SNAP.
- International Food Aid (P.L. 480 Title II and McGovern-Dole): Includes $1.69 billion, $464 million above 2009, for the P.L. 480 Title II Grants Program to meet emergency and non-emergency humanitarian food needs in countries stricken with natural disasters and political strife. And more than doubles funding (to $209 million) for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program to support education, child development, and food security for some of the world's poorest children.
Reinvesting in Rural America
- Dairy Assistance: Includes $350 million in assistance to the nation's dairy farmers who are struggling due to historically low prices, including $290 million to assist struggling dairy producers and $60 million to allow for the purchase of cheese and other dairy products for food banks.
- Rural Development: Provides nearly $3 billion, 9 percent more than 2009, for USDA programs key to rural communities such as rural housing, water projects, community facilities and economic development efforts. These programs not only sustain our rural communities, but also create new opportunities for growth and development in the nation's small town economies. This builds on the strong base provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and makes substantial investments in rural communities. The bill provides funding for programs that help house families ($14.5 billion), invest in rural businesses ($1.3 billion), and support new community facility infrastructure ($545 million for community facilities, and $9.4 billion for the rural utilities programs).
- Animal and Plant Health: Provides $910 million to fund programs that protect American agriculture against animal and plant diseases.
- Agricultural Research: Provides nearly $2.7 billion for USDA research agencies, nearly 7 percent above 2009, including Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (formerly called CSREES) for important agricultural research.
- Conservation Programs: $1 billion, $101 million above the request, for the Natural Resources Conservation Service to improve service in the field, deliver conservation to protect the environment, and upgrade aging dams at risk of catastrophic failure.
- Rejects Cuts in Priority Conservation Efforts: Restores cuts to valuable conservation programs, including the Resource Conservation and Development Program and the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program. The bill rejects $267 million in cuts to priority farm bill conservation programs, including the Wetlands Reserve Program, Farmland Protection Program, and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program.
Oversight and Enforcement
- Commodity Futures Trading Commission: Provides $169 million, 16 percent above 2009, to enhance oversight of the commodity futures markets. The increased resources will provide for additional staff and improved technology to better secure the markets from improper speculation.