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CQ Roll Call | Agriculture Spending Bill Approved by House Subcommittee

June 5, 2013
In The News

Agriculture Spending Bill Approved by House Subcommittee
By Anna McGeehan | CQ Roll Call | June 5, 2013



House appropriators backed legislation Wednesday that would trim $214 million from a supplemental nutrition assistance program while boosting funds for food and drug safety activities.

In a markup that lasted about 30 minutes, the Agriculture Subcommittee approved by voice vote its draft fiscal 2014 appropriations bill, which would provide $19.5 billion in discretionary spending for the Agriculture Department, FDA and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The full Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up the legislation next week.

The spending level is $1.3 billion below the fiscal 2013 enacted level, about even with the current spending after sequestration cut, and $516 million below the president’s request.

In their opening statements, Republicans and Democrats referred to perennial sticking points such as funding for nutrition programs and cuts to the CFTC, but they saved any proposed changes for the full committee.

Subcommittee Chairman Robert B. Aderholt, R-Ala., said the bill would support rural communities, nutrition programs, and food and drug safety, as well as help to “keep America’s agricultural research cutting-edge.”

WIC and SNAP Debate

Democrats strongly criticized cuts to food and nutrition programs, including international food aid, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition  Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

The bill would provide $6.7 billion in discretionary funding for WIC, which offers supplemental nutritional food to pregnant and nursing mothers, babies and young children. Spending for the program is $214 million below the fiscal 2013 enacted level and $487 below the president’s request.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., a staunch supporter of nutrition assistance programs, said the bill failed to meet many important responsibilities.

“The 7.3 percent cut in this bill could result in over 200,000 pregnant mothers and babies losing nutritious food,” DeLauro said.

Republicans said proposed cuts to 2014 WIC funding is based on an expected decline in enrollment and lower food prices and noted there is a $125 million reserve fund for WIC that could be tapped if average enrollment increases.

“This year the average monthly enrollment — compared to last year’s of 8.9 million people — the average monthly participation right now is 8.7 million. It is expected to decline even further,” said a House Appropriations spokesperson.

The measure also would provide $76.3 billion in required mandatory spending for SNAP, $958 million below fiscal 2013 levels and $2 billion below the president’s request.

Republicans included several measures in the bill that they say will help reduce fraud, waste and abuse in the SNAP program, including banning fraudulent vendors and prohibiting outreach to foreign governments to promote SNAP benefits.

CFTC Oversight

Democrats echoed one another over dissatisfaction with proposed cuts to the CFTC, which regulates futures and over-the-counter derivatives markets.

The bill would provide $195 million for the commission, which is around the agency’s current operating level but $10 million below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and $120 million below the president’s request.

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the panel, said the commission oversees almost $300 trillion worth of business annually and called it “disingenuous” to deny the president and the commission the funds necessary to register people and monitor those transactions.

Mandatory Spending

While Democrats are likely to offer amendments during the full committee markup to boost spending on their preferred programs, including SNAP, WIC, CFTC and food and drug safety, Republicans might look to rein in mandatory spending further, including a focus on reduced-price school lunches and SNAP.

Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said mandatory spending constitutes 64 percent of the entire federal budget and 86 percent of the Agriculture appropriations bill.

“When I came here, mandatory [spending] was 30 percent. Now it’s reversed.”