House Appropriations Committee Advances Agriculture Funding Bill

by Colter Brown

A suddenly changed political environment for budgeting on Capitol Hill is posing new challenges for farm bill writers, who are already facing a daunting October 1st deadline to complete work on a new bill.

It’s a ‘tale of two GOPs’—a Senate GOP ready to stick with FY 2023 spending figures next fiscal year based on the House Speaker’s debt deal with the president, and rebellious House conservatives demanding deeper cuts.

The House Appropriations Committee held a fierce partisan debate over Republican plans to cut funding from USDA programs in the FY 2024 budget. The USDA appropriations bill proposed to cut back spending 2.1% and rescind $5.8 billion in funding for USDA from the Inflation Reduction Act. The bill also restricts the Agriculture Secretary’s use of the Commodity Credit Corp. and eliminates the budget for USDA’s Office of Communications.

The Appropriations Committee advanced the funding bill to the full House late in the afternoon on a party-line vote.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) thanked members of the Committee for advancing the bill, which NCBA said will provide funding for essential programs that support cattle producers while defending against overreaching regulations.

“We are pleased the House Appropriations Committee showed such strong support for a number of cattle industry priorities, including protecting producers’ ability to capture premiums by nullifying USDA’s overreaching Packers and Stockyards rules and lowering cattle producers’ cost burden in implementing animal disease traceability,” said NCBA Senior Director of Government Affairs Tanner Beymer. “NCBA thanks Chairwoman Granger and Chairman Harris for their leadership and urge swift adoption of this bill on the House floor.”

The bill would defund the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s harmful Packers and Stockyards rules. NCBA says these rules would open cattle producers to frivolous complaints and lawsuits and, if implemented, would harm cattle producers’ ability to capture premiums from their high-quality cattle.

Additionally, the bill would provide $10 million for the purchase of electronic identification (EID) tags and related infrastructure to support the implementation of animal disease traceability. Several other industry priorities are included in the legislation such as reports on cell-cultured meat, the Cattle Contracts Library Pilot Program and the Asian Longhorned Tick, and funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, feral swine eradication, and healthy dog importation screenings.

A coalition of ag, consumer and labor groups including the National Farmers Union, R-CALF USA, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming, Independent Beef Association of North Dakota, and South Dakota Stockgrowers Association had lobbied against removing the funding for changes to the Packers and Stockyards rule.

“It is wrong for members of Congress to use the cover of an appropriations bill to quietly deny the country’s poultry and livestock producers from a deserved fair shake,” said Billy Hackett, policy specialist for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). “The ongoing, public process to promote transparency and competition in the marketplace by modernizing the Packers and Stockyards Act is aligned with core American values and must continue.”

National Farmers Union President Rob Larew added, “This funding bill would tie the hands of USDA, preventing them from effectively updating and enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act. These provisions undermine a law that protects family farmers and ranchers from harmful conduct by the big meatpackers. Congress should reject these provisions so USDA can ensure fair and competitive agricultural markets.”

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NCBA/DTN

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