POLITICO’s Morning Agriculture: Ag industry pores over spending bill — USDA takes a scalpel to school lunch ru les — ICE mushroom farm raid in line with Trump policy


Morning Agriculture

A daily briefing on agriculture and food policy

Ag industry pores over spending bill

By Jason Huffman

05/01/17 10:00 AM EDT

With help from Catherine Boudreau, Helena Bottemiller Evich and Doug Palmer

AG INDUSTRY PORES OVER SPENDING BILL: Congress clinched an omnibus spending package late Sunday night to keep the government running for the last five months of fiscal 2017. The bottom line for ag: Overall, Congress allocated $153.4 billion in mandatory and discretionary spending for programs at USDA and FDA, which is $12.8 billion above fiscal 2016 levels – a net increase the Appropriations Committee said is related to mandatory spending outside of its jurisdiction. Discretionary spending is $20.88 billion, or $623 million below levels enacted last year. A summary of agency-specific funding is here.

The fate of the riders: Provisions that would trigger additional subsidies from 2014 farm bill programs to cotton and dairy farmers did not make it into the bill. Instead, included in a list of congressional directives accompanying the spending deal is a request that the agriculture secretary within 60 days issue a report on administrative options for providing financial relief to cotton growers, and also offer immediate assistance to dairy producers.

Negotiations over how to change a margin insurance program for dairy producers extended into the weekend, which the House and Senate Agriculture committees worked on with appropriators like Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and farm-state lawmakers were hoping a rider that would designate cottonseed as an "other oilseed" so it can qualify for the commodity support program known as Price Loss Coverage would be included.

A rider that would block USDA from enforcing a trio of rules under its Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, which are designed to protect chicken growers in their contracts with processors, also didn’t appear to be included in the spending agreement. The department has already put off enforcing an interim final rule until October while it takes more comments, and the two other GIPSA regulations are in the initial stages of rulemaking.

What else is in the bill: Lawmakers delivered additional funding to fight wildfires in the West and to allow the Farm Service Agency to make more direct and guaranteed loans to farmers and ranchers who need access to credit during a period of low commodity prices. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s budget also got a $51.8 million boost to help address citrus greening and to prepare the agency for emergency outbreaks, like avian influenza. The rural water and waste-water loan and grant program, which Trump targeted for elimination in his "skinny budget," is funded at $1.25 billion – the same as last year.

Additional riders: The USDA can’t procure poultry products from China and include them in child nutrition programs; states can apply for a waiver to opt out of whole-grain requirements if they demonstrate financial hardship and also be granted exemptions to serve flavored, low-fat milk in school meal programs; and the USDA is directed to launch a pilot program on collecting farmers’ yield data in order to address discrepancies in commodity subsidy payments from county to county.

The bill also distributes $1.5 billion in new border security spending aimed at repairing existing infrastructure and increasing technology, POLITICO’s Burgess Everett, John Bresnahan and Sarah Ferris report.

GUIDE TO FEDERAL BUDGET & APPROPRIATIONS PROCESS: The federal budget process is complicated; brush up on your knowledge so you’re ready to act as the budget winds its way through Congress. Download your guide.


– More than 80 farm groups asked congressional lawmakers last week to support legislation that would reform commodity checkoff programs, but industry groups that support the programs say the bills are dead on arrival, DTN reports.