Farm Bill Logjam May Come Loose This Week

By: Gina Luke, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division

The House of Representatives scheduled nine legislative days in September, giving itself very little time to complete work on a number of key bills, including the Farm Bill, which expires Sept. 30. House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said Sept. 10 that he expects Congress to make progress toward finalizing the bill the week of Sept. 16.

The Farm Bill is very important to veterinary medicine because it provides funding to key programs that ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply and guard against diseases that impact animal and public health. AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division has worked for years on this legislation and saw several of its top priorities included, which are outlined in this chart. Both versions of the Farm Bill include:

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

Conservative lawmakers have been holding the Farm Bill hostage over the summer, demanding deep cuts to the nutrition title, the nation’s largest food aid program. Earlier versions of the bill would have cut the nutrition title by $20 billion over 10 years. The version that lawmakers will debate in September will cut the program by $40 billion over 10 years, in addition to requiring all able-bodied parents with children older than six to work or be in work-related activities.

Following a vote on the nutrition title, House Republican Party leadership is expected to name lawmakers to a conference committee to negotiate with the Senate on a final five-year Farm Bill. The Senate named conferees just before the August recess. They are Democrats Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Max Baucus (Mont.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.), and Republicans Thad Cochran (Miss.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), John Boozman (Ark.), and John Hoeven (N.D.).

AVMA hopes that Congress will come to an agreement soon and pass a final bill before the current version expires at the end of the month.

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