June 27, 2017
The House Appropriations Committee today released the fiscal year 2018 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow. The legislation funds important agricultural and food programs and services, including food and medical product safety, animal and plant health programs, rural development and farm services, agricultural trade, financial marketplace oversight, and nutrition programs.
The bill totals $20 billion in discretionary funding, which is $876 million lower than the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $4.64 billion above the President’s budget request. The legislation prioritizes this funding in programs for rural communities, farmers, ranchers, food and drug safety, and nutrition for those in need. In addition, the bill contains several policy provisions to rein in unnecessary and burdensome regulations that harm U.S. food producers and that impede growth in important U.S. industries.
“The safety and accessibility of our nation’s food and drug supply is of utmost importance to our economy, our quality of life, and – given the great benefit of producing necessities here at home – our national security,” House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said. “This bill prioritizes funding on federal programs that support these critical industries and the farmers, ranchers, medical professionals, and many others that form the backbone of our food and drug supply – which is the best in the world.”
“This Appropriations bill reflects the will of our Members. I invited colleagues last week to let me know their priorities for the Agriculture, FDA and other titles in the bill. I am grateful that a number of people came forward to let us help with issues important to farmers, ranchers and the people who make rural America the heartland of America. I am pleased to say that we were able to accommodate these Member requests within the bill and look forward to moving a conservative bill through the legislative process.”
The legislation focuses funding on programs that bolster U.S. agriculture, support rural communities, maintain and promote food and drug safety, and provide nutrition for those in need.
In total, the bill allows for $144.9 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding – $4.6 billion above the President’s request and $8.5 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Discretionary funding alone provided by the bill is $20 billion, $876 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.
Agricultural Research – The bill provides $2.8 billion for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This funding will support research at all ARS facilities to help mitigate and stop devastating crop diseases, improve food safety and water quality, increase production, and combat antimicrobial resistance. Continued investment in ARS’ buildings and facilities is included to ensure researchers have the facilities needed for a safe, stable and abundant food supply. This funding also includes important research investments in U.S. land-grant colleges and universities and for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s premier competitive research program.
Animal and Plant Health – The legislation includes $906 million – $96 million above the President’s budget request and $40 million below the fiscal year 2017 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. The funding level preserves previous funding increases, which will help address harmful outbreaks of citrus greening and highly pathogenic avian influenza, as well as funds to support specialty crops and the Zoonotic Disease Management Program for antimicrobial resistance activities.
Conservation Programs – The bill provides $904 million to help farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners conserve and protect their land. This includes $45 million for infrastructure rehabilitation to help small communities meet current safety standards for watershed projects.
Farm Programs – The legislation provides $1.6 billion for farm programs, which is $44 million above the President’s budget request. 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. It will also ensure customer service through full staffing of local county Farm Service Agency offices and meet estimates of demand for farm loan programs.
Rural Development – The bill provides a total of $2.6 billion for rural development programs. 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.
- Rural Economic Infrastructure Grants – The bill includes $122.7 million to establish the Rural Economic Infrastructure Grant account. The account uses existing authorities from Community Connect grants, Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants, Community Facility grants, and Rural Assistance Housing grants to provide flexibility on resource allocation to achieve maximum impact.
- 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 2017 enacted level – for rural water and waste program loans, and $473 million for grants and related costs, a decrease of $96 million below current levels that includes savings from reduced subsidy costs and $473 million above the request. In addition, $6.94 billion is provided for rural electric and telephone infrastructure loans, the same level as fiscal year 2017.
- 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 2017 enacted level and the President’s request. In addition, the bill includes $900 million in direct loans. These loans provide low-income rural families – many of whom would have few loan options for purchasing a home because of their geographical location – with home loan assistance. In addition, $1.345 billion is provided for rental assistance for affordable rental housing for low-income families and the elderly in rural communities for renewal of all existing rental assistance contracts.
- Business and Industry Loans – The legislation includes a loan level of $819 million for the rural business and industry loan program. This funding will help small businesses in rural areas, many of which face unique challenges due to local economic conditions.
Food Safety and Inspection Service – The legislation includes $1.038 billion for food safety and inspection programs – an increase of $6 million above the 2017 enacted level. These mandatory inspection activities help ensure the safety and productivity of the country’s $211 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 more than 6,400 facilities across the country.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – The FDA receives a total of $2.8 billion in discretionary funding in the bill, which is equal to the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Total funding for the FDA, including revenue from user fees, is $5.2 billion – $490 million above fiscal year 2017. Food safety activities are supported in the bill by more than $300 million, continuing these investments to the FDA since the enactment of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011.
The bill also appropriates $60 million as authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act, and includes language to allow FDA to receive transfers from the National Institutes of Health for support of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence. The legislation also includes language for the FDA to utilize high carryover balances to help speed the processing of safe and effective generic and innovator drugs.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) – Included in the bill is $248 million for the CFTC, $2 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and the President’s budget request. This funding level will ensure robust swaps, futures, and options markets while prioritizing resources and giving flexibility for enforcement and market oversight.
International Programs – The legislation contains $1.8 billion for overseas food aid and to promote U.S. agricultural exports. This includes $1.4 billion for “Food for Peace” grants and $185 million for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program. These programs seek to reduce chronic hunger and increase food security by providing American-grown food, transported by U.S. ships, to foreign countries in need of aid.
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 $6.15 billion in discretionary funding for WIC, which is $200 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and the same as the President’s request. Because of robust prior-year funding and declining enrollments in the program, WIC has large carryover balances left over from previous years. Therefore, to make the best use of taxpayer dollars, the bill rescinds $600 million in these unobligated balances, which will have no impact on participation in the program.
- Child nutrition programs – The bill provides for $24.28 billion in required mandatory funding – which is outside the discretionary funding jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee – for child nutrition programs. This is $1.5 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This funding will provide free or reduced-price school lunches and snacks for 31 million children who qualify for the program. The bill provides approximately $640 million for the Summer Food Service Program to ensure low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. In addition, the bill 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.
The bill continues policy provisions to stop onerous regulations on local schools, which cost them money and resources in an already tight budget climate. Some of these provisions include:
- A provision that allows schools demonstrating a financial hardship to seek an exemption from the whole grain nutrition standards;
- A provision that prevents further implementation of sodium reduction standards; and
- A provision that provides schools with flexibility in serving low-fat flavored milk.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – The bill provides for $73.6 billion in required mandatory spending – which is outside the discretionary funding jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee – for SNAP. This is $4.87 billion below last year’s level and $2.6 million below the President’s budget request, reflecting declining enrollment and a decrease in food costs. The total includes $3 billion for the SNAP reserve fund, equal to the President’s request, which is used to cover any unexpected participation increases.
Provisions are also included to increase congressional oversight of administrative activities and expenses, such as nutrition research and evaluations.
For the complete text of the Subcommittee Draft of the FY 2018 Agriculture Appropriations bill, please click here.