The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Senate Ag Approps approves bill; full committee markup Thursday

The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee approved the fiscal year 2014 Agriculture appropriations bill Tuesday, and Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., the subcommittee chairman, said that the full Senate Appropriations Committee would mark up the bill on Thursday at 10:30 a.m.

The bill provides $20.93 billion in discretionary funds, a higher figure than the House Appropriations Committee has provided. (See following story.)

The $20.93 billion bill is $420 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.
The bill generated little debate, but Pryor told reporters afterward that, while he is proud of the bill, he would have preferred to provide more money for agricultural research and for the Food and Drug Administration. Agricultural research has given the United States an “advantage globally, but we’re in a budget-capped environment,” Pryor said.

The FDA, he added, sets “the global gold standard” for food and drug regulation. “We like to fuss at them,” he said, “but they do a good job.”

The bill provides an increase of $53 million for the FDA to continue implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. It also includes $1.02 billion for the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, which is $7 million below fiscal year 2013 but $12 million above the budget request.

Pryor noted that the bill provides more money than the House bill for the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) because “There is a real need. It’s not a solution in search of a problem. It is money well spent.”

Pryor also noted that the bill provides $1.466 billion for the Food for Peace P.L. 480 Title II grants, which is $33 million above fiscal year 2013.

The bill eliminates $20 million that has been used for monetization (sale) of food aid for development purposes, about 17 percent of that program, and allows more flexibility for the U.S. Agency for International Development to administer development programs. It also provides $185 million for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program, which is $1 million above fiscal year 2013.

The nutrition section includes $35 million for equipment purchases in school cafeterias to help schools prepare meals that are consistent with the nutrition standards under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she hopes the final measure includes a directive to USDA to allow the purchase of white potatoes through the WIC program, and that she will continue to work on that issue as the bill progresses. Collins called USDA’s ban on white potato purchases “inexplicable” because the white potato is “a valuable, nutritional and affordable vegetable.”

USDA has said it does not allow white potato purchases in WIC because scientific studies have already shown that low-income children already get white potatoes, and that they need nutrients from other vegetables.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said he agreed with Collins and that the white potato in the WIC program would be one of the issues he planned to raise with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at a meeting Tuesday.

The subcommittee did not release details of the bill, but issued a summary.