Senate approves ag appropriations act

Nov 4, 2011
by WLJ

The U.S. Senate last week passed the 2012 Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies Appropriations Act with a vote of 69-30.

The bill, as amended, includes the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bills.

The legislation cuts agricultural funding by 15 percent, but is much more reasonable than a House of Representatives bill passed early this year that cuts 26 percent.

“I am very pleased that the Senate has acted on this critical legislation,” says Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel K.

Inouye, D-HI. “These bills are focused on a number of basic priorities: job creation, public safety, nutrition, housing, and transportation. It is bipartisan, fiscally responsible, and reflects the input of senators on both sides of the aisle."

The National Farmers Union (NFU) president, Roger Johnson, said in a statement, “The passage of the Senate ag appropriations bill is a step in the right

direction towards reducing our nation’s deficit while avoiding some of the more damaging cuts. Overall, the ag appropriations bill is a reasonable bill, and we hope that the final ag appropriations bill, after conferring with the House, closely resembles the Senate version.”

“I am very pleased that the Senate has acted on this critical legislation.”

NFU also was relieved that the Senate did not include a policy rider defunding the completion and implementation of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule.

“The GIPSA rule will help restore fairness to the livestock market and ensure that independent producers are not at the mercy of large packers,” Johnson said.

“We have maintained that agriculture will do its part to help reduce the deficit. The bill represents a 15 percent reduction in ag funding lev els since Fiscal Year 2010.

That is still larger than many other departments, but better than the 26 percent cut passed in the House appropriations bill earlier this year,” Johnson said.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) criticized the amount of conservation funds cut in the bill. Approximately $700 million was taken from conservation programs. “These steep cuts in the 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill target crucial and effective programs that are already oversubscribed with a long waiting list of farmers wanting to implement conservation practices,” a statement from NWF said.

The legislation slices funding in half for the Grasslands Reserve Program. This bill also cuts funding by 41 percent for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, which helps landowners create wildlife habitat on working landscapes. The legislation ends the Voluntary Public Access Program, which encourages farmers to make their land accessible to the public for hunting, fishing and other wildlife-based recreational opportunities. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor