By: Gina Luke, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division
The House Appropriations Committee approved by a voice vote on June 13 an amended draft of its fiscal 2014 Agriculture spending bill. The bill would provide $139.5 billion in mandatory funding, including $19.5 billion in discretionary funds, which is less than the fiscal 2013 enacted discretionary funding level, but nearly equal to post-sequestration funding levels. The spending bill is also $516 million below President Obama’s request.
“As we have done and will do with each and every bill this year, we made some serious cuts to the programs in this bill to reduce spending, eliminate waste and lower our debt,” said Chairman and U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers (R-Ky.).
Despite the deep cuts to the Agriculture spending bill, AVMA’s priorities fared pretty well.
“This austere fiscal environment has meant that AVMA has had to fight hard to stave off cuts to key programs and agencies,” said Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director of AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division. “We focused our efforts on maintaining funding for some programs while making the case for modest increases for a select few. As a result, AVMA’s core priorities are funded at or above their fiscal 2012 levels in the bill. We are not across the finish line yet, but we will continue to work hard as the appropriations process moves forward.”
Highlights from the bill are as follows:
- The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program is slated for $4,790,000, an increase of $120,000 over fiscal 2013 levels, but equal to its fiscal 2012 funding. To date, 174 veterinarians have received awards under the program, which allows them to practice in areas of the country that have demonstrated a need for livestock or public health veterinarians.
- The Food Animal Residue Avoidance Database (FARAD) program has been funded at $1,250,000, an increase of $275,000 over its fiscal 2013 levels. The funding for FARAD has not increased for years, even though it is authorized for as much as $2.5 million annually. It has been estimated that advice provided by FARAD scientists, who help ensure that milk, meat and eggs are free of chemical and drug residues, have impacted over 7.4 million animals in over 14 species, including major and minor food producing animal species, since 2011.
- The Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative, which provides baseline funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, will get an increase of $1,162,000 over fiscal 2013 levels. The $7,000,000 budget also provides support to the Extension Disaster Education Network and the Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education.
- The Animal Health and Disease Research Program is funded at $4,000,000 in fiscal 2014, an increase of $100,000 over fiscal 2013 levels. This program supports livestock and poultry disease research at accredited schools of veterinary medicine and state agriculture experiment stations that conduct animal health and disease research.
- AVMA has been making a strong case to Congress about the important role that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)plays in safeguarding U.S. agriculture and protecting animal health and welfare. In its report accompanying the spending bill, the Appropriations Committee highlighted the role that APHIS plays in helping increase sales of U.S. agricultural products and supporting U.S. jobs and industry. APHIS funding kept steady in the fiscal 2014 spending bill at $803,538,000, slightly above the previous fiscal year. In addition, APHIS is authorized to collect reasonable fees to cover the total costs of providing technical assistance, goods or services requested by U.S. states and others. Within APHIS’ allocation, the following budget lines have been approved.
- Animal Health Technical Services: $34,500,000
- Aquatic Animal Health: $2,272,000
- Avian Health: $52,340,000
- Cattle Health: $93,000,000
- Equine, Cervid, and Small Ruminant Health: $19,169,000
- National Veterinary Stockpile: $2,750,000
- Swine Health: $23,000,000
- Veterinary Biologics: $16,457,000
- Veterinary Diagnostics: $31,611,000
- Zoonotic Disease Management: $9,023,000
- Subtotal, Animal Health: $284,122,000
- The Food and Drug Administration will see a $24,000,000 increase above fiscal 2013 levels. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), however, will see a slight cut in funding to $999,000,000. FSIS is the USDA’s food safety and inspection program for meat, poultry and egg inspection. As was anticipated, U.S. Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) once again offered an amendment to prohibit FSIS from using any of its funding for inspections of horse slaughter facilities in the United States. The amendment prohibiting funding for the inspection of horses to be slaughtered for human consumption was adopted on a voice vote.
- The fiscal 2014 spending bill provides $2.5 billion for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Among NIFA’s programs are the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative for competitive research grants; the Hatch Act for agriculture experiment stations; the Evans-Allen for agricultural research; and four other research programs.
The House Agriculture spending bill is likely to be considered on the House floor later in June. So far, the House has passed fiscal 2014 spending bills for Homeland Security (H.R. 2217) and the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (H.R. 2216).
The Senate has not yet considered any fiscal 2014 spending bills on the floor, nor have any draft appropriations bills been introduced or marked up within their subcommittees. On June 20, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is expected to release the Senate’s fiscal 2014 fund allocations (known as 302(b) allocations) for the 12 subcommittees. Given disagreement between Senate Democrats and Republicans over the topline discretionary spending limit, it is uncertain how far any fiscal 2014 appropriations bills will advance as stand-alone bills in the Senate.