On June 16th, the House passed H.R. 2112, FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill by a vote of 217-203. Overall, this bill provides $17.25 billion in discretionary spending for FY 2012, $2.9 billion below this year and $5 billion below the Administration's request.
Even as Republicans are willing to spend billions to continue the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and tax breaks for oil companies and corporations shipping jobs overseas, the bill makes drastic cuts that will take food out of the mouth of babes, increase the risk of food-borne illnesses, hurt the very heart of farm country, undercut common-sense financial regulations, and protect Wall Street speculators that are driving up gas prices.
- The bill cuts WIC for pregnant women, infants and children by $650 million or 10%--denying food and health counseling for up to 350,000 low-income women and young children for next year. (Click here for state by state numbers.) And Republicans are expected to offer an amendment to increase the WIC cut - because the rule permits the bill's ban on the payment to the Brazilian Cotton Institute to be stricken ($147 million) and these savings were used by Rep. DeLauro to reduce the WIC funding cut in committee. The bill also cuts food aid for low-income seniors (Commodity Supplemental Food Program) and help for food banks (Emergency Food Assistance Program).
- The bill slashes the Food and Drug Administration by $572 million or 21% below the President's request and by $285 million or 12% below this year. These deep cuts will severely undermine food safety efforts and increase the risk of food-borne illnesses - preventing the implementation of the landmark Food Safety Act enacted at the end of the Democratic-controlled 111th Congress. This law requires the FDA to significantly step up scrutiny of domestic and imported food and requires development of a new food safety system that is focused on preventing contamination before it occurs, rather than simply responding to contamination outbreaks.
- The bill slashes the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the agency charged with policing price speculation in commodities, futures, and derivatives markets and implementing common-sense Wall Street reforms to prevent another financial crisis, by 44 percent below the President's request. Instead of standing with Main Street, creating jobs and strengthening the middle class, this Republican bill will protect some of the Wall Street speculators that drive up the price of oil and undercut key Wall Street reforms necessary to protect American farmers, consumers, and hard-earned pension plans from another Wall Street led financial meltdown.
WIC: The bill cuts WIC aid for pregnant women, infants and children by $650 million or 10% from $6.73 billion this year to $6.05 billion in 2012 -- forcing them to turn away up to 350,000 low-income women and young children next year, even taking into account contingency and carryover funds.
- WIC provided nutritious food, counseling on healthy eating and health care referrals for over 9 million women and children under age five last year and has saved more than 200,000 babies from dying at birth.
- Economists estimate that every $1 invested in WIC saves between $1.77 and $3.13 in health care costs in the first 60 days after an infant's birth by reducing the instance of low-birth-weight babies and improving child immunization rates. [USDA, Food and Nutrition Service]
Domestic Food Aid: Funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which serves predominantly low-income seniors, is cut by $38 million or 22% from the President's request.
Discretionary funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which works with states to assist food banks, is cut by $12 million or 24% below the 2012 request. In addition, the bill caps funding that TEFAP receives annually from the SNAP (food stamp) program at $200 million, which represents a loss of $51 million (20%) to the TEFAP program.
FDA/Food Safety: The bill slashes the Food and Drug Administration by $572 million or 21% below the President's request and by $285 million or 12% below this year. These deep cuts will severely undermine food safety efforts and increase the risk of food-borne illnesses. Following are some key points on these cuts.
- Each year, according to CDC, 48 million Americans are sickened from consuming contaminated food, 325,000 people are hospitalized, and 5,000 of these people die. In just the last few years, there has been a string of food-borne illness outbreaks in foods consumed by millions of Americans each day - from contaminated spinach to peanut butter to cookie dough.
- The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 has key provisions to make our food supply much safer, including improving safety standards for food facilities and fresh produce, strengthening inspection requirements, boosting powers to help limit the dangers of food imports, and providing the FDA with the power to issue a mandatory recall of contaminated food, among other authorities.
- However, the funding cuts in this bill will prevent this food safety act from being implemented. Experts have stated that, under the funding cuts in this bill, the FDA will not be able to meet many requirements of the new law, including increased inspections of food manufacturing plants, increased scrutiny of imported foods, and development of the capability to more quickly respond to food-borne illnesses and minimize their impact.
- This bill is making these drastic cuts in food safety funding at the same time that national polling shows strong public support for funding to keep our food safe. A recent national poll shows that an overwhelming majority (85 percent) of Americans support the government's role in ensuring food safety, with a large majority (66 percent) also supporting an increase - not a reduction - in food safety funding.
Rehberg FDA Amendment: In mark-up of the bill, the committee adopted, by a vote of 29 to 20, a Rehberg amendment that limits the type of scientific evidence the FDA can use in issuing rules intended to restrict the use of a substance or compound. Experts have stated that this amendment would seriously undermine the FDA's ability to protect the American public. The recommended rule does not provide protection to the Rehberg amendment from being stricken on a point of order as authorizing in an appropriations bill.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission: The Republican plan slashes Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), by 44% from the President's budget. Under the Republican plan, the CFTC's budget would fall to $172 million from $202 million this year. President Barack Obama had requested $308 million in his 2012 budget proposal.
International Food Aid: The bill provides $1.22 billion for international food aid, which is $670 million below the President's request and $476 million below this year. This includes cuts to Food for Peace ($650 million below the request; $457 million below this year), which allows donation of U.S. agricultural products to meet humanitarian food needs; and to the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program ($21 million below the request), which provides for the donation of U.S. agricultural commodities to preschool and school feeding programs abroad to reduce world hunger. These cuts would prevent distribution of emergency food aid to over 1.1 million beneficiaries.