FY16 Agriculture Subcommittee Markup Bill Summary

Washington, D.C. –The fiscal year 2016 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies bill provides a total of $20.51 billion in discretionary budget authority, which is $65 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $1.1 billion less than the President’s request.
The Subcommittee’s allocation conforms to the post-sequester caps under the Budget Control Act.  Not one Senate Democrat voted for these austere spending levels because they do not provide adequate resources to protect America, build infrastructure, create opportunity, and spur economic growth. We need a new budget deal, in the spirit of Murray-Ryan, that stops hollowing out investments in America’s future.
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ranking Member of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, said:
“Senator Moran has worked hard to protect critical programs funded in this bill as well as to keep policy riders to a minimum.  I appreciate the bipartisan manner in which we’ve worked drafting this bill.  But more needs to be done.  In order to protect rural America, our nation’s food supply, and the most vulnerable citizens among us we must have a bipartisan budget agreement that moves this country forward.  I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Moran as we move through the appropriations process.”
Key Points & Highlights
This bill funds the important activities of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  These agencies are responsible for programs that affect the lives of every American. 
Agriculture Research
  • Total funding for agriculture research is $2.6 billion, which is $46 million less than fiscal year 2015 and $488 million less than the budget request.  Every one dollar invested in agricultural research yields a return of $20 to the economy.  The bill does not include increases for antibiotic resistance, climate change or other research areas within the Agricultural Research Service.  The bill also does not include funding for reconstruction and repair of Agricultural Research Service labs. 
  • For the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the bill maintains the fiscal year 2015 level and does not include a $125 million increase for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – USDA’s premiere competitive research program.
Rural Development
  • Rental Assistance:  The bill provides $1.167 billion for Rural Development Rental Assistance, which is $78 million more than fiscal year 2015.  The bill does not include a proposal to impose a $50 per month minimum rent, but it does fund all expiring rental agreements, assisting over 259,000 very low income households.  Rental assistance tenants are usually elderly, disabled, or have female heads of household.
  • Water and Waste Disposal:  Total funding for water and waste disposal is $496 million, an increase of $32 million from last year.  With this funding, over 2.2 million rural residents will receive new or improved clean water and sanitary waste disposal service.
  • Summer EBT:  The bill provides $16 million for Summer EBT, the same as fiscal year 2015.  This is $50.9 million less than the request.  More than 21 million children rely on free and reduced price meals at school, but only a fraction (3 million) receive free meals in the summer.  These are often the most vulnerable children and increased funding could benefit as many as 200,000 families each year.
  • School Meals Equipment Grants:  The bill provides $25 million for school meals equipment grants.  The same as fiscal year 2105, but $10 million below the request.  These funds are critical to ensure our children eat healthy food, and are used to replace outdated equipment such as refrigerators and ovens.  When this program was started in 2009, applications totaling over $640 million were submitted.  To date, only $160 million has been provided.  Schools need this money to serve our children better – an increase would help an additional 1,500 schools.
International Food Aid
  • PL 480 Title II:  The bill provides $1.466 billion for PL 480 Title II.  This amount is the same as fiscal year 2015 and $66 million more than the budget request.  With ongoing crises throughout the world, this program saves lives by providing food assistance, boosting the resilience of disaster-affected communities and supporting the transition from relief to recovery.
  • McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program:  This bill provides $202 million for the McGovern-Dole Program.  This is $10 million more than both fiscal year 2015 and the budget request.  The increase includes new funding for local and regional procurement, so food can be purchased closer to the recipients.  These funds will help millions of women and children around the world gain access to improved education and nutrition. 
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • The bill provides $2.629 billion for the Food and Drug Administration.  While this is a net increase of $40 million above the fiscal year 2015 level, it is $107 million below the request level.  Some of the increases still don’t meet the President’s request, including a $45 million increase to implement major portions of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which is $60 million short of the budget request; a $3 million increase to combat antibiotic resistance, which is still $12 million less than the budget request; and a $2 million increase for FDA’s Precision Medicine Initiative, which falls $8 million below the budget request level.  FDA regulates products worth 20 cents of every dollar spent by American consumers, so these funds are vital to making sure our drugs and food are safe.
  • Major elements of the Food Safety Modernization Act are to be implemented at the end of fiscal year 2015.  Additional funding is required to train FDA employees, state and local officials, and industry, as well as to make sure that food coming from other countries meets U.S. standards.
  • The bill does not provide requested increases for implementing the FDA Safety and Innovation Act, oversight of drug compounding facilities or evaluating additional over the counter sunscreen products. 
  • Dietary Guidelines:  The bill includes a rider requiring the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans be based solely on nutritional and scientific evidence and not extraneous information.  This would prevent the dietary guidelines from providing common sense recommendations regarding physical activity, and other recommendations important to healthy eating and lifestyles. 

Press Contact

Mara Stark-Alcalá w/Appropriations:             (202) 224-2667
Merkley Press Office:                                    (202) 224-3753