The House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee held a hearing today with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to review the administration’s 2015 budget request for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Committee members from both sides of the aisle raised many questions about implementing the Farm Bill, school lunch programs, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in relation to the proposed budget numbers.

vilsackWhen concerns about the poultry inspection rule were raised by Representative DeLauro (D-CT), Secretary Vilsack responded that after his recent review of the rule and the data from the 25 pilot programs, the data shows an increase of compliance with safety standards; equal to or fewer product safety issues compared to general plants and processes; and equal to or fewer worker safety issues compare to general plants.  “The voluntary program would require more off-line inspections, more microbiological testing and recordkeeping, and more verification of following food safety requirements,” he said.

Vilsack concluded his response by saying, “The poultry system has not been modernized in 60 years. This system was established in 1950… the year I was born.  It was a while ago.  Certainly I have evolved over a period of 63 years and hopefully we can evolve [this] process.”


Other notable highlights from the hearing:

  • House Appropriations full Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said in his opening remarks that he wants to “tackle mandatory spending” in budgets for federal agencies. “That’s a big problem,” he said, adding that 86 percent of USDA’s budget goes to mandatory spending.
  • Rep. Rogers also said that it is time to get back to regular order for completing all 12 appropriation bills for fiscal 2015, in order to avoid the necessity of another big omnibus spending bill.
  • In response to a question from Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-MS) on when USDA will follow through with provisions in the 2008 farm bill to move the catfish inspection program from FDA to USDA, Vilsack said the department will release regulations detailing how it plans to take over the catfish inspection program by the end of the year.