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Fact Sheet: Fiscal Year 2010 Agriculture Appropriations Conference Report


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, Sep 30, 2009 -

Fact Sheet: Fiscal Year 2010 Agriculture Appropriations Conference Report
 
The Agriculture Appropriations conference report contains a total of $121.1 billion in both mandatory and discretionary spending. Discretionary spending in the bill totals $23.3 billion – which is 14% or $2.8 billion over last year’s level.
 
The report contains funding several important and necessary government programs, including farm lending and safety-net food and nutrition programs. However, while adequate funding for these critical programs is needed – especially in this time of economic struggle – the proposal over-compensates with unsustainable, double digit funding increases throughout the bill.
 
A 14% increase in overall agriculture spending in one year is out of touch with our current fiscal reality. Many of these programs are important and should be funded at reasonable levels, but they simply do not warrant these huge spending increases paid for with borrowed money. In addition, many of these programs received enormous increases over their normal appropriation levels in supplemental appropriations in 2008, the “stimulus” bill, or the 2009 emergency supplemental appropriations bill.
 
In addition, the report contains several items that were “air-dropped” in conference committee – meaning they were not included in either the corresponding House or Senate bills and have not received full vetting or scrutiny by the House, Senate or the American public.
 
Bill Highlights/Concerns:
 
Agriculture Programs:
 
Production Processing and Marketing Agencies and programs within the Department of Agriculture will receive $30.3 billion in the agreement, or $4.4 billion over last year’s level. This includes funding for the Agriculture Research Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Farm Service Agency, and the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation and the Commodity Credit Corporation and Agriculture Marketing Agency among others.
 
Food and Nutrition Programs:
 
Domestic Food and nutrition programs within the Department of Agriculture are funded at record levels of $82.8 billion, $6.6 billion above last year’s level. This funding will allow those with low or no income will receive all the benefits available to them during this period of severe economic downturn, and also includes a substantial cushion of extra funding that is not likely to be needed.
 
Rural Economic Development:
 
The conference report includes $3.0 billion in funding to support $0.3 billion in grants and loans to help rural communities with economic development and infrastructure improvements, including broadband development and implementation. In addition, the agreement also provides $5.1 billion in new lending for farm operations and ownership, which will help meet the rising demand for Federal loans replacing private sector lending that has been severely curtailed in the current economic downturn.
 
Chinese Poultry Imports:
 
The conference report includes an end to the ban on cooked poultry products imported from China. The ban was put in place earlier this year, but violated international trade agreements and negatively affected trade relations with China – who in retaliation placed its own ban on certain U.S. pork and poultry imports.
 
However, while the comprehensive ban was lifted, the conference report also requires mandatory U.S. safety inspections of Chinese facilities before any cooked chickens can be imported back to the United States.
 
Dairy Industry Assistance:
 
The conference report includes $350 million in assistance to the U.S. dairy industry – added as an amendment to the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill. $60 million of the total would be directed towards government purchases of surplus dairy products, which would then be donated to various food banks and charities around the country. The remaining $290 million would be disbursed the Secretary of Agriculture via direct payments to individual dairy producers and additional dairy surplus purchases.
 
While the dairy industry is struggling with low product prices amid the national recession, additional subsidies to producers will ultimately have a negative effect on the underlying problems facing the industry. By propping up dairy prices now, the industry will have an incentive to maintain unsustainable production levels, prolonging the problem of surplus product on the market which drives down prices and profits.
 
Duplicative Government Spending:
 
The Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill included $1.5 million in funding to the USDA to relocate the Arthropod Borne Animal Disease program from Ames, Iowa to Manhattan, Kansas. The House bill included no such language, and Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) offered an amendment in the conference committee to reject the Senate amendment and allow the facility to remain in Iowa. However, the amendment was not agreed to.
 
The Ames, Iowa facility was recently constructed at a cost of $400 million in taxpayer dollars to accommodate the consolidation and placement of the USDA program, a move that was requested by the Administration and supported by the Department. Changing the plan now and relocating the program to Kansas will not only cost the taxpayers the $1.5 million included for this purpose in the conference report, but will likely cost millions more in improvements and construction to make the Kansas facility suitable to house the program.
 
“Air-Dropped” Items:
 
Despite the Democrat majority’s promises of eliminating or scaling back government programs in the various Appropriations bills, the Agriculture conference report includes 14 pages of new, “air-dropped” items that were added in conference after the legislation passed the House and Senate.  These items include completely new government programs that were not requested by the Administration and have not been fully vetted or scrutinized, and have not been subject to hearings, mark-ups, or public floor debate. The cost of these new provisions total approximately $150 million, which is offset through “savings” within the legislation.
 
These items include:
·         Authorizations for several new child nutrition pilot programs that were never formally requested by the Administration, and which are clearly the responsibility for the corresponding authorization committees.
·         Authorization extensions for several non-controversial provisions within child nutrition programs. These extensions were also included in the C.R., which should give the relevant authorization committees ample opportunity to extend the programs if needed.
·         A new authorization of a food stamp program to pay families the cash equivalent of school lunch meals, should schools be forced to close for more than five days due to a pandemic flu outbreak.

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