Agriculture Spending Bill Headed to House Floor

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By Renee Hickman

The 2018 agriculture spending bill approved in committee would provide $20 billion in discretionary spending for the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2018 bill by a voice vote July 12. Now it is ready for floor action by the full House. The legislation would provide $1.1 billion less than FY 2017 enacted levels after adjusting for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The combined total of both discretionary funds and required mandatory spending for programs like nutrition assistance and crop insurance is $144.9 billion, down $8.5 billion from the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.

The bill would provide $248 million for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and $5.2 billion to the FDA, including $2.8 billion in discretionary funds.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said the bill would preserve funding for rural development programs, as well as food, drug and medical device safety, while including provisions to rein in “burdensome over-regulation that harms U.S. food producers and impedes growth in industries important to our economy.”

Brazilian Beef, Chinese Chicken

The bill was advanced with amendments including a requirement that the USDA conduct a food safety equivalency determination for all products eligible for export to the U.S. from Brazil, including raw beef.

Fresh beef from Brazil has come under scrutiny in recent months for issues relating to health, sanitation and animal health, leading to a ban on Brazilian raw beef imports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in June.

An additional amendment would require the USDA to provide a report to the committee detailing the measures officials from China will take to inspect chicken and report disease outbreaks prior to finalizing any rule allowing chicken raised and slaughtered in China to be exported to the U.S.

In May, the Trump administration struck a deal with China that would send more Chinese chicken to the U.S. and more U.S. beef to China, but concerns about the safety of chicken raised and slaughtered in China continue.

The committee didn’t agree to further amendments on commercial horse slaughter and e-cigarette product regulation by the FDA.

Commercial Horse Slaughter

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) raised an amendment continuing the ban on commercial horse slaughter in the U.S., citing issues of animal abuse and public health.

Roybal-Allard said that 80 percent of Americans oppose commercial horse slaughter; it is impossible to humanely slaughter horses due to their unique biology; and drug residue after veterinary treatment of horses as companion animals would make the meat unfit for human consumption.

Opposing the amendment, Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) said the ban on horse slaughter in the U.S. merely moves the slaughter of horses to Mexico and Canada, where it is not as well-regulated as it would be in the U.S.

Vaping, E-cigarettes

Appropriations Committee ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) offered an amendment to remove language from a rider in the bill which would exempt e-cigarette or “vaping” products from regulation by the FDA.

Lowey said studies had shown that most e-cigarettes contain high levels of formaldehyde and other cancer-causing chemicals, and that the products are especially appealing to young people and new smokers because of the flavors they are offered in.

Lowey said that if the bill were passed with the rider “the FDA would never be able to put the genie back in the bottle.”

Opponents of the amendment, including Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) said e-cigarette products are useful because they help smokers quit.

Farmworker Housing

Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wa.) raised a successful amendment expanding the eligibility of farm workers for housing to migrant workers legally admitted to the U.S. for farm work.

The bill will now advance to the House floor for a vote.

To contact the reporter on this story: Renee Hickman in Washington at rhickman@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bna.com

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