On Wednesday the House easily approved the FY2006 agriculture appropriations bill by a 408-18 vote. The bill provides $17 billion in discretionary spending for the USDA, FDA, Commodities Futures Trading Commission and the Farm Credit Administration. Its total cost soars to $99 billion once mandatory farm and food stamp programs are included.
As part of the bill, the House rejected an amendment that would have protected implementation funding for mandatory COOL for beef from further delays. The amendment offered by Reps. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont., and Darlene Hooley, D-Ore., was defeated by a margin of 187-240. Without the amendment, the House spending bill prevents the USDA from implementing the mandatory COOL program included in the 2002 farm bill.
However, several amendments were adopted including the following:
- Increase APHIS funding by $19 million and offset by corresponding reductions in other programs.
- Prohibit FDA from granting conflict of interest waivers to advisory committee members.
- Prohibit the Agriculture Department from inspecting the slaughter of horses for meat for human consumption.
In addition the House rejected an amendment from Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., to restrict the sugar program. The 280-146 vote was seen as a victory for sugar producers.
Below is a summary of specific rural program funding levels:
- Farm Service Agency salaries and expenses are funded at Presidentâ€™s request of $1.008 billion, an increase of $25 million above last year, to continue delivery of farm programs.
- Agricultural Research Service is funded at $1.124 billion, an increase of $164 million above last yearâ€™s level and $63 million above the Presidentâ€™s request.
- Conservation operations activities are increased by $26 million over the Presidentâ€™s request, bringing FY 06 funding to $794 million, and a decrease of $37 million below last year.
- Rural Community Advancement Program (RCAP) is funded at $657 million, a decrease of $53 million below last year and an increase of $136 million above the Presidentâ€™s request. Included in the increase is an additional $80 million for rural water and waste grants above the Presidentâ€™s request.
- Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) detection and prevention activities are funded at about $90 million, the same as last yearâ€™s level and the Presidentâ€™s budget request.
- Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service formula funds for Hatch Act, McIntire-Stennis, and Animal Health Disease programs are restored to fiscal year 2005 levels. The Committee does not concur with the budget request to convert these formula funds into competitive grants.
The Senate must pass its own spending bill, and a conference committee must resolve differences between the two versions, before Congress can vote on a final version.