House Ag Approps approves bill without amendments
The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on July 6 approved the fiscal year 2021 Agriculture appropriations bill without amendments.
Total discretionary funding in the legislation is $23.98 billion, an increase of $487 million above the fiscal year 2020 enacted level.
The committee earlier released the bill and a summary of it.
In an opening statement, House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., said, “The bill — and accompanying report — are products of a lot of hard work that has been done in the face of uncertainty and unusual working conditions.”
“Our fiscal year 2021 allocation is $23.98 billion — 2% above the fiscal year 2020 enacted level and more than $4.1 billion above the budget request,” Bishop said.
The bill includes language to:
Block the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents final rule (ABAWD) and the Standard Utility Allowance rule (SUA) proposed rule.
• Block USDA from granting line-speed waivers at meat processing facilities during the public health emergency.
• Require the agriculture secretary to submit to the committee documents the department cited as the basis for its decision to cancel the Forest Service application for the Rainy River Watershed Withdrawal in Minnesota.
• Allow the secretary to waive matching fund requirements for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative.
During the debate on the bill, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., the ranking member, praised the provisions for food banks and expansion of broadband internet access.
Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., also praised the broadband provisions, noting that the ReConnect program started when he chaired the committee.
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said “there isn’t a state in the country” that hasn’t seen challenges regarding broadband. Maine, she noted, has been 49th in speed and 49th in accessibility.
House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., praised the bill for meeting the needs of the nation’s hungry and said she looks forward to moving the bill through the appropriations process. The full committee was scheduled to consider the bill on Thursday.
House Appropriations Committee ranking member Kay Granger, R-Texas, noted that people “are watching to see whether the schools open” and that schools often mean three meals a day for children.
Fortenberry and Granger did not list any specific objections to the bill but noted that it contained language with which they did not agree.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., a former subcommittee chair, said, “We are a nation of abundance, we have food, no one should go to bed hungry.”
“This pandemic has pinpointed to us where our system of supports, our social safety net, is not as strong as we believed it to be, as strong as our families, our farmers and our food workers need it to be,” DeLauro said.
“Along with providing the necessary funding for the food stamp program, Women, Infants and Children, and Child Nutrition programs, the bill includes language to block implementation of rules that would threaten benefits for hundreds of thousands of people. I want to remind my colleagues that food stamp spending is a powerful anti-recession tool. It has previously been estimated that for each dollar spent from benefits, $1.70 is generated in economic activity.
“The bill also takes action to ensure the safety of our nation’s food supply, as well as the health of the workers producing that food,” DeLauro said.
“Workers on the frontline of our food supply chain — food processing, meat and poultry plant employees, and farmworkers — play an essential role in the availability of food. I thank the chairman for his leadership on including language to prevent USDA from granting line speed waivers to corporate meatpackers as well as the inclusion of language encouraging USDA to prioritize financial assistance to employers of farmworkers who can show they are complying with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. We must push for leadership and accountability.”
DeLauro noted that Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, when asked about a comment by President Donald Trump that 99% of COVID-19 cases were “totally harmless,” said “‘I’m not going to get into who’s right and who’s wrong.’”
DeLauro said, “That is the mission of the FDA, as the public’s primary regulatory agency for public health. The mandate of the agency is to distinguish between right and wrong, especially as it relates to misleading claims about this virus. So, as we invest in the FDA’s mission, I look forward to working with others on the subcommittee and the full committee to make sure the agency provides the most accurate information to the public.”
DeLauro also said, “I am proud of the $2 billion in international food aid provided by this bill. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased hardship around the globe, and I believe we have a moral obligation to lend a helping hand. The bill includes $1.775 billion for Food for Peace grants, $235 million for McGovern-Dole, and again provides $1 million in funding for the International Agricultural Education Fellowship program.”
DeLauro also told her colleagues, “It’s so wonderful to see you. You don’t realize how important it is to see your colleagues.” ❖