The FY2012 Agricultural Appropriations Bill, as part of a larger package, has now gone through conference and is coming back to the House and Senate for a final vote. The package includes a Continuing Resolution that will keep the Federal Government open until December 16. The total dollar amount for the Ag Appropriations portion of the bill is $136.6 billion.
According to the Chairman of the Appropriations' Committee Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the bill places restrictions on the implementation of a Grain Inspection and Packers and Stockyards Administration proposed rule that would have allowed harmful government interference in the private market for livestock and poultry.
The National Farmers Union is expressing concern with the fiscal year 2010 Ag Appropriations language in the conference report.
"The report is disheartening for the fate of U.S. family farm agriculture," said NFU President Roger Johnson. "The policy rider that precludes implementation of the GIPSA rule is upsetting. Political pressure and disingenuous economic studies paid for by meatpackers and processors have stopped the rule that would have returned basic fairness and competition provisions to farmers and ranchers. The most critical parts of the rule that Congress proposes to prohibit include a clearer definition of USDA's interpretation of competitive injury, which would address the fundamental problems that have plagued the livestock and poultry industries."
Johnson also points to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission budget. He says proposed cuts would preclude the CFTC from enforcing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act passed just one year ago.
"This is almost as bad as repealing Dodd-Frank. Reducing funding will make CFTC's job nearly impossible," said Johnson. "We cannot expect to avoid another economic crisis if we do not provide regulators with the resources to do their jobs."
NFU's concerns were outlined in a letter sent to all members of Congress Wednesday.
The conference report also proposes to cut the Rural Energy for America Program by 64%. This measure is expected to pass without amendment. Allen Grosboll, Legislative Director for the Environment Law & Policy Center, says this is the wrong time to slash funding for programs that create jobs and rural economic development. REAP provides grants and loan guarantees for agricultural producers and rural small businesses to implement energy efficiency and a wide variety or renewable energy systems.
The Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels will also take it on the chin with a reduction in funding of 62%. This program provides production payments for producers of "advanced biofuels," which excludes corn ethanol.
The Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which provides cost-share funding to establish and purchase first generation energy crops such as prairie grasses, will be capped at $17 million, while it was administratively capped at $112 million in the 2011 fiscal year, a reduction in the cap of 85%.