Senate committee sets 2012 ag funding course

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The Senate Committee on Appropriations approved its fiscal 2012 funding bills for agriculture, energy-water and homeland security.

Totaling $19.780 billion in overall discretionary spending, the Senate agriculture funding bill contains $138 million less in discretionary spending than the fiscal 2011 bill, reports the National Pork Producers Council. That compares to the House version which cut 2012 ag spending by 2.8 billion versus this year’s budget.

OF most interest to pork producers is the fate of USDA’s proposed GIPSA rule. The controversial regulation relates to animal production contracts as well as those involved with buying and selling livestock.

Unlike the House bill approved earlier this summer, the Senate agriculture appropriations measure did not include language that would prohibit USDA from implementing the rule. Of course, the Senate and House versions of the agricultural appropriations will have to be reconciled in the joint conference, which will take place in the coming weeks. The federal government’s current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

It is uncertain whether USDA’s GIPSA proposal will survive the committee, as there are equally strong movements in support and opposition. Groups such as NPPC and the American Meat Institute have opposed the bill and will no doubt work to have the language removed from the final version of the bill.

Among the other efforts of interest to the pork industry was the $7 million targeted for a U.S. animal traceability program, which would allow animal health officials to better identify, control and eradicate diseases. President Obama had wanted $14 million such a program, but the debt negotiations and the focus on balancing the federal budget weighed on the outcome.

The Senate took out $726 million from mandatory conservation programs, a 12 percent cut. The House bill took out $1.15 billion dollars. But in both bills, the EQIP program took the biggest hit in environmental-related spending, losing $350 million.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chair of the Senate subcommittee, points out the he fought to maintain adequate ag research funding. “Without continued investments in research, food production in this country and around the world will not be able to keep up with growing populations and challenges of climate change, invasive pests and other threats,” he said.

Funding for Food & Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) and the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI)—both institutes that inform Congress and state and federal governments on ag economics and rural issues—survived the Senate appropriations markup. Both are headquartered at the University of Missouri. Iowa State University contributes to both while the University of Nebraska contributes to RUPRI.



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