Agriculture appropriations bills move through subcommittees

Last week, the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Related Agencies met to markup their respective agriculture appropriations bills.

The bill would include $1 billion for the Food and Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and various food inspectors across the meat, poultry and egg industries. These personnel add up to more than 8,000 workers inspecting over 6,400 facilities across the U.S.

The FDA would also receive $2.6 billion in discretionary funding, which would be divided amongst the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and the Center for Veterinary Medicine. The remaining portion of the money not going towards the centers would be allocated for an increase in food safety activities.

The bill was met with some objection; arguments included that the bill “[failed] to make the necessary investments to protect consumers.” In particular, it was pointed out that the bill would give the FSIS approximately $6 billion less in funding than the previous year. More comments included that while the increase in funding for food safety was positive, it still wasn’t enough.

“We should provide the FDA with the amount of money they need to protect people from foodborne illness,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), part of the subcommittee. The bill passed in the House, despite DeLauro’s objections.

The bill went before the Senate, where two amendments were added that banned horse slaughter and required that genetically engineered salmon be labeled.

It is expected that a full committee markup of the House agriculture appropriations bill will take place this week.

UPDATE 5/30/14: The House added two more amendments to the bill this week. The first bill on horse slaughter is a similar to the one that passed in the Senate.  Another amendment centers on “Chinese chicken,” which would prevent all poultry processed from the country being used in school lunches, breakfasts and food programs. There was no objection to that particular amendment.

Additionally, Democrats aimed to remove a provision of the bill, which would give certain schools a waiver on compliance with nutrition standards. The motion was rejected with a 29-22 vote.

The agriculture appropriations bill was approved by a vote of 31-18.

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