WASHINGTON (NAFB) – The fiscal year 2014 omnibus spending package approved by the House and Senate combines all 12 appropriations bills for spending categories including Agriculture, Energy and Water and other areas that impact farmers into one measure , allocating funding for programs within each category.
The farmers of the American Soybean Association welcomed action on the bill, noting that several of the programs represent significant policy priorities for soybean farmers.
The bill’s energy and water section includes provisions that will significantly increase funding for waterways components. The provisions are strongly supported by ASA and have been priorities for the Water Resources Development Act.
The increase in spending for port and navigation channel improvements is another victory for ASA. The bill provides $1 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for port and navigation channel maintenance and dredging.
ASA President Ray Gaesser says waterways infrastructure is critical for soybean farmers. He says the work of the appropriations committee is not only a policy victory for ASA and other waterways stakeholders, but also a positive sign the WRDA conference committee may be nearing completion with similar provisions for waterways funding in future years.
While National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson is hopeful the spirit of cooperation that led to the passage of the bipartisan appropriations bill will continue through to the farm bill, Johnson says the omnibus spending bill and its accompanying report language is far from perfect.
He says the bill includes much-needed funding increases for rural development programs, but that it also makes detrimental cuts to the Women, Infants and Children Program.
More importantly, Johnson says appropriations for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission fall short of the agency’s needs. Johnson points to nonbinding report language that is critical of Country of Origin Labeling, and calls it a sign of desperation when packers, processors and our foreign competitors go as far as including misleading rhetoric and scare tactics in the omnibus report language in order to try to deny consumers the right to know the origins of their food. NFU urges USDA to stand firm in supporting COOL and to dismiss the nonbinding resolution.
American Farm Bureau’s R.J. Karney says rural development was the big winner in this bill, with a $180 million increase in funding directed toward the Rural Housing Assurance Fund, the Rural Business Cooperative Service, and to telecommunications electrification loans.
Karney says that type of funding allocation recognizes an “exodus” from rural America. By investing into rural economies, he says the bill supports the next generation remaining on the farm and building up what he calls “ghost towns,” without their support.
The Obama Administration supported the Food for Peace program becoming monetary in nature and administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development; AFBF backed direct food aid under USDA’s jurisdiction. The appropriations bill kept food aid as is, with USDA administering it and with direct aid as opposed to dollars out of USAID.
The perennially contentious issue of horse slaughter appeared in the bill as well. The appropriations language states that USDA cannot spend federal dollars to inspect horses slaughtered for human consumption. Karney says it will prevent the harvesting of livestock for reasons unrelated to food safety.