Republican leadership selected Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) last week to take over the House Appropriations Committee gavel from Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who is due to step down in January due to chairmanship term limits.
As chairman, Frelinghuysen—seen as a centrist Republican—will be in a prime position to shape federal agriculture policy, deciding what goes in and out of legislation funding the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration. And with a Republican Congress and White House next year, appropriations bills have a decent chance of making it to the president's desk.
An examination of Frelinghuysen's voting record on the committee and elsewhere shows that, on agriculture issues, he generally follows the rest of his party. For the next agriculture appropriations bill, this could translate to more policy riders rolling back food and farming regulations championed by the Obama administration.
Congress is likely to adopt a continuing resolution to fund the government into next year that is clear of most policy provisions. That means many riders shepherded through the appropriations process by Republicans this year could work their way into the next funding bill as well, this time with Frelinghuysen calling the shots on the committee.
In the April markup of the fiscal 2017 agriculture appropriation bill, Frelinghuysen voted in favor of an amendment eliminating certain types of FDA review on tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes.
Currently, tobacco products introduced after Feb. 15, 2007, are subject to review under the new “tobacco products pathway,” which the industry says is burdensome and expensive. The amendment would have eliminated that predicate date, allowing most e-cigarette products to be regulated under the less strict “substantial equivalence pathway” used for traditional cigarettes.
Frelinghuysen voted in favor of the “GIPSA rider,” which would have prevented the USDA from implementing regulations reworking the rules governing contracts between poultry and livestock producers and the processor who buy their products.
The USDA has since finished work on those rules and has sent them to the Office of Management and Budget for finalization, though the committee could restrict funds to the USDA to implement the rules.
Another amendment, which passed on a voice vote but could come up again, would bar the USDA from using funds to develop guidelines for reducing sodium intake until the National Academy of Medicine or the Centers for Disease Prevention completes a study on the healthy consumption of salt.
The FDA issued draft guidance for sodium reduction targets in June but has yet to release final rules.
Outside of the Appropriations Committee, Frelinghuysen has voted to limit funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as the food stamp program, which is under the authority of the USDA and whose policy is laid out in the farm bill.
Frelinghuysen voted in favor of the original House version of the 2014 farm bill, which had the SNAP portion removed. The nutrition portion was rolled into a separate bill which would have cut SNAP funding by $40 billion over 10 years. Frelinghuysen voted for that bill as well.
Lawmakers later added the SNAP program back during a conference committee. Frelinghuysen ultimately voted against that final legislation, which Congress passed and the president signed into law.
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