Earlier this week, the Appropriations Committee passed its FY 2017 spending bill. Congressman Sanford Bishop sent out the following statement regarding the passage of the bill, and a round up of bill highlights.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02), Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, released the following statement after the full Appropriations Committee passed its Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 government spending bill. The government spending bill now goes to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for its consideration.
“The Agriculture government spending bill passed by the Appropriations Committee is boon for Georgia and our nation’s strong agriculture industry,” said Congressman Bishop. “In addition to billions of dollars invested in rural development and Land Grant universities across the country like the University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University, the bill also specifically champions the pecan and cotton industries, expands efforts for urban agriculture initiatives, and protects access to food in rural communities by supporting the usage of EBT at convenience store locations.” — Rep. Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
A handy summary of what the bill includes and a link to the text of the bill are below.
BACKGROUND & BILL HIGHLIGHTS:
KEY LANGUAGE AFFECTING MIDDLE AND SOUTHWEST GEORGIA:
- Directs the Secretary of Agriculture to use all his authority to assist cotton industry;
- Directs NASS to continue issuing pecan data in 2016 Non Citrus & Fruits Preliminary Study;
- Continues focus and increases funding to respond to any state emergencies and work to minimize any trade impact of the avian influenza outbreak;
- Mandates that at least 10 percent of Rural Development funding go to persistent poverty counties (20% poverty over last 30 years). Includes single family housing, self-help housing loans/grants; Community Facility loans/grants; Rural Coops; Rural Electrification; Distance Learning; Telemedicine; Broadband, etc.;
- Directs the Department to expand opportunities for urban agriculture in cities such as Albany, Macon, Columbus;
- Directs USDA to create an Agriculture Research Center at an HBCU;
- Expand joint research activities at all Land Grant Universities, including 1890 Land Grant Universities.
- Directs the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to prohibit the implementation of a FNS rule changing retailer eligibility requirements in SNAP. The rule would have altered the definition of a retail food store to exclude any entity with over 15% of its food sales in items that are “cooked or heated” on site or under the same roof as another entity that has more than 15% of its sales in cooked or heated food.
In total, the bill allows for $147.7 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding – $2.3 billion below the President’s request and $7.2 billion above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. Discretionary funding alone provided by the bill is $21.3 billion, $451 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level.
Agricultural Research: The bill provides $2.85 billion for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This funding also includes important research investments in U.S. land-grant colleges and universities. Included in this level is a $25 million increase for USDA’s premier competitive research program – the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.
Animal and Plant Health: The legislation includes $934 million – $29.6 million above the President’s budget request and $36.4 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level – for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. This funding will support programs to help control or eradicate plant and animal pests and diseases that can be crippling to U.S. producers, including harmful outbreaks of citrus greening and highly pathogenic avian influenza.
Conservation Programs: The bill provides $868 million to help farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners conserve and protect their land. This includes $12 million for infrastructure rehabilitation to help small communities meet current safety standards for watershed projects.
Farm Service Agency (FSA): The legislation provides $1.51 billion for FSA, which is the same as the fiscal year 2016 level. This funding will continue support for various farm, conservation, and emergency loan programs, and will help American farmers and ranchers with the implementation of the farm bill.
Rural Development: The bill provides a total of $2.88 billion for rural development programs, which is $113 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. These programs help create an environment for economic growth by supporting basic rural infrastructure, providing loans to increase opportunities for rural businesses and industries, and helping balance the playing field in local rural housing markets.
- Business and Industry Loans – The legislation includes a loan level of $920 million –the same as the fiscal year 2016 enacted level – for the rural business and industry loan program.
- Rural Infrastructure – The legislation includes responsible investments in infrastructure to help rural areas of the country access basic utilities. This includes $1.25 billion – the same as the fiscal year 2016 enacted level – for rural water and waste program loans, and $533 million for grants and related costs, an increase of $11 million above current levels and $71.6 million above the request. In addition, $6.94 billion is provided for rural electric and telephone infrastructure loans, the same level as fiscal year 2016.
- Rural Housing Loans and Rental Assistance – The bill provides a total of $24 billion in loan authority for the Single Family Housing guaranteed loan program, which is equal to the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and the President’s request. In addition, the bill includes $1 billion in direct loans – an increase of $100 million from the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and the President’s request – to meet increased demand. In addition, $1.4 billion, an increase of $15 million above current levels, is provided for rental assistance for affordable rental housing for low-income families and the elderly in rural communities.
Food Safety and Inspection Service: The legislation includes $1 billion for food safety and inspection programs – an increase of $15.5 million above the 2016 enacted level. These mandatory inspection activities help ensure the safety and productivity of the country’s $185 billion meat and poultry industry, and keep safe, healthy food on American tables. The funding provided will maintain more than 8,000 frontline inspection personnel for meat, poultry, and egg products at approximately 6,400 facilities across the country.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The FDA receives a total of $2.7 billion in discretionary funding in the bill, an increase of $33 million over the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. Total funding for the FDA, including revenue from user fees, is $4.78 billion – $97.4 million above fiscal year 2016. Within this total, food safety activities are increased by $33.2 million, and medical product safety activities are increased by $9.4 million.
Zika: The bill provides $10 million in funding through the FDA to combat Zika and Ebola outbreaks by helping to fund ongoing response activities, and to expedite the development and availability of medical products to fight the viruses.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC): Included in the bill is $250 million for the CFTC, the same as the 2016 enacted level and $80 million below the President’s budget request. The agreement includes language allowing the CFTC to sublease its excess space to achieve savings identified by the Government Accountability Office and Inspector General.
International Programs: The bill includes $1.9 billion for overseas food aid and to promote U.S. agricultural exports, including $1.5 billion – a $116 million increase above the President’s request – for “Food for Peace” grants, and $202 million for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program.
Food and Nutrition Programs: The legislation contains discretionary funding, as well as mandatory funding required by law, 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 child nutrition programs.
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) – The bill provides $6.35 billion in discretionary funding for WIC, which is the same as the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and the President’s request.
- Child nutrition programs – The bill provides for $23.2 billion in required mandatory funding – which is outside the discretionary funding jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee – for child nutrition programs, supporting 32 million children free or reduced-price school lunches and snacks. The bill provides more than $628 million for the Summer Food Service Program to ensure low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. The bill also continues funding for a pilot program that provides additional funds through SNAP or WIC electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to ensure children in underserved communities receive food during the summer months.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – The bill provides for $79.7 billion in required mandatory spending – which is outside the discretionary funding jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee – for SNAP. This is $1.2 billion below last year’s level and $2.02 billion below the President’s budget request, reflecting declining enrollment. The total includes $3 billion for the SNAP reserve fund, $2 billion below the President’s request, which is used to cover any unexpected participation increases.
For the complete text of the subcommittee draft of the FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill, please click here.