House Appropriators release Ag report language | TheFencePost.com

House Appropriators release Ag report language

The Hagstrom Report

The House Appropriations Committee released the report language for the fiscal year 2018 Agriculture appropriations and related agencies bill that will come up for consideration in the full committee on July 12.

Reports accompanying appropriations bills are generally not regarded as having the same force of law as provisions within the bill, but government officials who do not follow the "encourages" and "directs" language know funding for their programs could be endangered the next fiscal year.

The report endorses the creation of the Office of the Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, which splits off the Foreign Agricultural Service from the old Office of the Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, and the shift of the Natural Resources Conservation Service from the Office of the Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment to the newly created Office of the Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation.

"The committee is supportive of the secretary's reorganization of the farm production and conservation mission areas under one undersecretary and expects this position to equally focus on each mission," the report states.

"The committee directs the undersecretary to provide briefings during fiscal year 2017 on preliminary strategies and plans for the reorganization related to the consolidation, co-location, relocation and closure of field offices and staff; and the development and combination of information technology systems, specifically farm program modernization."

The report appears to be silent on the Trump administration's decision to abolish the Office of the Undersecretary for Rural Development, but funds the programs within that mission area.

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The report also:

» Encourages the Agricultural Research Service to maintain a focus on agricultural-related legal issues within the National Agricultural Library.

"The committee notes that as the agriculture sector faces increasing financial stress, there is a necessity that agriculture-related legal issues be addressed on an increasingly frequent basis. Further, agriculture-related legal issues are increasingly complex, and the impact of these legal issues continues to broaden in scope," the report says.

» Directs the Agriculture secretary to recommend standards schools may adopt to address the issue of shaming school children for unpaid school lunch fee, including standards that protect children from public embarrassment. It strongly encouraged all communications about unpaid school lunch fees be directed at the parent or guardian, not the child. It encourages schools to take additional steps to work with families falling behind in their school lunch fees.

» Rejects the Trump administration's proposal to eliminate mandatory marketing export promotion programs or any staffing reductions due to the planned elimination of the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program.

» Directs the Economic Research Service to update its 2001 study on the economic benefits of breastfeeding and make it publicly accessible with 12 months of the enactment of the act.

"The updated study should assess the impact of clinically recommended breastfeeding rates on economic outcomes and health care systems including, but not be limited to, the impact on direct and indirect costs, including preventable deaths, preventable medical conditions, and lost workplace productivity," the report states.

» Encourages the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make sure its Agricultural and Food Research Initiative is "reflective of the needs of all aspects of U.S. agriculture, including organic," and directs USDA to develop a plan to make sure this goal is achieved without duplication in the mandatory Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative. USDA is to report back to the committee within 60 days of this act.

» Directs the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to report back to the House and Senate appropriators within 90 days on contingency plans to develop an expanded vaccine bank against foot-and-mouth disease and the estimated funding necessary for implementation and maintenance.

» Rejects the Trump administration's proposal to transfer catfish inspection from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service back to the Food and Drug Administration.

"FSIS is protecting the public health, and the committee expects the agency to continue with full compliance by Sept. 1, 2017," the report states.

» Encourages the Commodity Credit Corporation to provide assistance to the cotton sector and states "the committee further supports the inclusion of cottonseed as an oilseed."

» Directs the FDA to develop a standard of identity for dairy products based upon certain dairy product terms described in the Code of Federal Regulations within 180 days after the act is enactmented.

"The FDA should issue guidance to industry on how to implement the standard of identity, including how this standard will be enforced," the report states.

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