President Biden signed H.R. 2617, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023.
I’m interested in what the $1.7 trillion , 1600-page bill does for food issues. It mentions the word “food” 786 times. It mentions “agriculture” 213 times. Fortunately, most of this is in Division A. Even so, one longs for summaries. For whatever they are worth, here are a few I’ve collected.
- Senate Appropriations committee summary
- Sen. Patrick Leahy’s bill highlights
- Sen. Patrick Leahy’s highlights for USDA and FDA funding
- Rep. Sanford Bishop’s summary for USDA and FDA funding
- Rep. Sanford Bishop’s fact sheet
- Congressional explanation of intent about Division A funding
Let me see if I can make some sense of this.
- $25.48 billion in discretionary spending (more than last year, less than what Biden asked for).
- $3.7 billion for research ($1.74 billion for the Agricultural Reseach Service and $1.7 billion for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture
- $1.17 billion for Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), more than $60 million above last year’s.
- $1.15 billion for the Food Safety and Inspection Service, including funding to reduce user fees and to retain veterinarians.
- Nutrition programs: $154 billion for SNAP; $6 billion for WIC; an increase of $6.6 million for commodities; an increase of $11 million for emergency food assistance.
- International food assistance: $1.75 billion for Food for Peace grants (an increase), and $243 million for the McGovern-Dole education program (an increase).
- $6.56 billion for everything (but this includes a large percentage to be derived from food, drug, and tobacco user fee revenues). These include increases for food safety and some core functions.
The bill does some other things worth mentioning. It includes: funds to:
- Expand the Summer EBT program and makes it permanent as of 2024.
- Addresses SNAP EBT skimming (stealing benefits across state lines).
- Test for testing for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS—forever chemicals)
- Make sure lobster and crab fisheries are in compliance with rules about whales.
It takes a lot of expertise to analyze all of this. Here are two reactions.
Heritage Action: This omnibus package represents the very worst of Washington: back-room deals, $1.85 trillion dollar spending bills full of pet projects and partisan priorities, and an Establishment more interested in their own power than the wellbeing of the American people. The GOP must stand united in their opposition to this bill.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: The biggest disappointment of the year-end bill by far is the failure to expand the Child Tax Credit. The American Rescue Plan’s expanded credit and other relief measures drove the child poverty rate to a record low of 5.2 percent in 2021. But with the expansion’s expiration, that record progress in reducing child poverty in 2021 has sharply reversed.
There are lots of other criticisms of this bill floating around, mainly having to do with what the Biden Administration asked for but did not get, and concerns about inadequate funding of FDA for food safety.
On this last point, let me again say that the perennially underfunded FDA gets its appropriations from agriculture committees, even though it is an agency of the public health service. Agriculture subcommittees could not care less about FDA. FDA needs a mandated home in Congress and much better support than it now gets.
Happy new year.
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