House ag committee approves $145B spending bill

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2018

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee yesterday speedily approved a spending plan that would slightly increase discretionary spending for fiscal 2019, rejecting the Trump administration’s efforts to slash programs by 16 percent.

Among other highlights, the measure brushes off the administration’s proposed cuts to conservation, research and crop insurance, a position welcomed by the panel’s ranking Democrat, Georgia Rep. Sanford Bishop.

The $23.3 billion in discretionary funding would be a $14 million increase from this year.

The measure passed on a voice vote. There were no amendments offered, although proposed changes are more likely in the full Appropriations Committee.

Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) said more than 300 lawmakers submitted nearly 6,000 requests for items for inclusion. And he said he expects changes as the bill moves through the House and, possibly, to a conference with the Senate.

“As always, this is a work in progress,” Aderholt said.

The bill would provide $1.7 billion for farm production and conservation, enough to keep county-level offices of the Department of Agriculture fully staffed, Aderholt said.

In addition, he said, the measure rejects the Trump administration’s proposal to close 20 research facilities, instead funding research at $3.1 billion and aiming funding specifically at renovating and otherwise improving research facilities.

It also targets funding increases for certain pests and diseases, including the citrus greening disease that’s damaging groves in Florida, he said.

Bishop praised Aderholt for opposing the administration’s proposed cuts, which totaled about $1 billion in discretionary funding and were “just not acceptable,” he said.

The proposal would give the national organic food program an increase of $1.5 million but would cut a program that helps conventional farmers transition to organic production, said Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), herself an organic farmer.

Pingree said she hopes funding can be restored for the organic transition program as the legislation moves along.

Overall, the measure would set combined discretionary and mandatory funding at $145 billion, or $922 million less than this year.