The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies held a mark up on the fiscal year 2012 bill that will fund USDA from October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012.  This bill contains language that will prohibit USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) from spending any funds “…to write, prepare, develop, or publish a final rule or an interim final rule in furtherance of, or otherwise to implement the proposed rule required under Title XI of the 2008 farm bill.”  The proposed GIPSA rule, unveiled last June, was written in response to a 2008 farm bill directive to review marketing and competition issues in the livestock and poultry industries.

The bill includes cuts to discretionary spending of $2.6 billion from last year’s levels and funds discretionary programs at $5 billion less than President Obama’s budget request.  The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is funded at $34,475,000 below the fiscal year 2011 continuing resolution level.  The bill states that “the funding level may force FSIS to make some choices about the staffing levels that are currently maintained at district and headquarters offices, but the funding level ensures that inspection and sampling activities will be carried out uninterrupted.”   Additional bill language under FSIS would allow for an expansion of the HACCP-based Inspection Models Program (HIMP) that would encourage USDA to open up the program to more than the 20 plants currently participating.

Other provisions of the bill include:

  • The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will be funded $73 million below last year’s budget and includes a reserve fund for emergencies;
  • The Agricultural Research Service budget is reduced by $353 million over last year’s level, and all conservation programs are cut by $99 million;
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) budget is cut by 11.5 percent, which is less than the overall cut to the bill of 13.4 percent and includes user fees totaling $3.7 billion;
  • The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) was cut by $136 million or 44 percent less than the president’s request.

Also included in the funding measure was language that would eliminate the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).  Funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) would also be eliminated.  BCAP is designed to provide financial incentive to farmers to produce biomass crops for heat, power, biobased products and advanced biofuels. REAP provides grants and loan guarantees to finance new energy products.  Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack approved the final BCAP subsidies earlier this month. REAP grant and loans have been made available to about 6,000 farmers. The full House Appropriations Committee will take up the bill passed by the subcommittee on May 31.