An agreement has been reached on an omnibus spending bill to fund the government for the remainder of the current fiscal year. The bill provides a total of 1.012-trillion dollars for the government - including 20.9-billion in discretionary funding for USDA, the Food and Drug Administration, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Farm Credit Administration. That's 350-million dollars more than the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. The bill is expected to start moving through the House as early as today (Tuesday). A joint release from Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski, House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers, Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Richard Shelby and House Appropriations Ranking Member Nita Lowe calls the agreement a solid piece of legislation that meets the guidelines of the Ryan-Murray deal, keeps the government open and eliminates the uncertainty and economic instability of stop-gap governing. The Appropriations leaders admit not everyone will like everything in the bill - but call it a good, workable measure that will serve the American people well. Mikulski, Rogers, Shelby and Lowe encourage their colleagues to support the bill this week.
Here are some of the highlights of the agriculture bill as provided by the House Appropriations Committee:
* Food Safety and Inspection - The bill provides more than a billion dollars for the Food Safety and Inspection Service - but 19-million below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.
* Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration - The legislation restricts GIPSA from implementing certain regulations regarding the private market for the livestock and poultry industry.
* Food and Drug Administration - The FDA receives almost 2.6-billion dollars in discretionary funding in the bill - an increase of 91-million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. Total funding for the FDA - including revenue from user fees - is 4.4-billion. In addition to these amounts - the bill provides 85-million dollars to restore the loss of funds due to the Office of Management and Budget's sequester of FDA user fees
* Commodity Futures Trading Commission - The CFTC receives 215-million dollars - which is 100-million below President Barack Obama’s budget request.
* Natural Resources Conservation Service - The bill provides 826-million to NRCS - virtually the same as the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. This includes 12-million dollars in conservation funding for dam rehabilitation to help rural communities ensure their small watershed projects meet current safety standards.
A report accompanying the omnibus appropriations bill includes language restraining efforts by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to expand their regulatory reach. The language from Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns clarifies a provision that legally prohibits OSHA from regulating farms with fewer than 10 employees. According to Johanns - the inclusion of his language makes it very clear OSHA doesn't have the authority to harass family farmers. More than just a victory for ag producers - Johanns says this is a win for the economy and the law.
The report language is below:
“The bill continues the exemption of small farming operations from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation. The OSHA is encouraged to work with the Department of Agriculture before moving forward with any attempts to redefine and regulate post-harvest activities, to include, but not limited to, storing, drying, grinding, and other activities necessary to market farm products to subsequent users in the agricultural value chain, and clarify that this exemption shall apply to on farm post-harvest activities.”