Farm Bills Clear Senate and House Agriculture Committees, Await Floor Time

By: Gina Luke, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division

The Committees on Agriculture in both chambers of Congress marked up draft versions of the Farm Bill the week of May 13 and included several provisions of importance to veterinary medicine. The Farm Bill, which is set to expire Sept. 30, will cost almost $100 billion annually over five years and would set national policy for farm subsidies, rural programs and food aid.

The Farm Bill will extend some programs, modify others and establish new programs for five years. The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee approved its bill—S. 954, Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013—by a vote of 15-5, and the House Agriculture Committee passed its bill—H.R. 1949, Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013—by a vote of 36-10.

AVMA saw several of its top priorities included in the legislation, which are outlined in the attached chart. Both versions of the Farm Bill include:

  • provisions to establish funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and Veterinary Services Grant Program.
  • extensions for the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank and the Animal Health and Disease Research Formula Funds.
  • amendments to the Animal Welfare Act, which will prohibit people from knowingly attending, or causing a minor to attend, an animal fight (see related article).

The Senate’s version of the Farm Bill also includes a provision to establish a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. The House version adds a priority area of research that will be eligible for competitive grant funding within the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Institute. The research will focus on the safe and effective applications of animal drugs for minor species and the minor uses of these drugs within major species.

The next step in the legislative process is for the each chamber of Congress to consider the bills put forward by their respective bodies. This process may begin as soon as May 20 in the Senate, and possibly the week of June 10 in the House.

Once each chamber passes its bill, a conference committee will convene to iron out the differences between the two bills. Each conference committee will have an onerous task, since the House version cuts $4 billion a year from food aid and farm spending, including $2.5 billion a year from the food stamp program, whereas, the Senate version cuts $2.4 billion from these areas. The committee’s ability to resolve their differences will be essential to passing the final legislation, which lawmakers have attempted to push through Congress for three years in a row.

See the committees’ websites for more information on S. 954 and H.R. 1949, including en bloc amendment details.

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