Congressional Hearing – Senate Appropriations Committee – June 22, 2023 – IFAI Notes

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Hearing: Senate Appropriations Committee 

22 June 2023 

Overview: Markup of the “Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2024” 


BILL SUMMARY – Agriculture, Rural Development, Food And Drug Administration, And Related Agencies Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations Bill 

Senate appropriators on Thursday unanimously approved a bill to fund the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration through fiscal year 2024 — a level of consensus that stands in stark contrast to the deep partisan divides on display during the House’s markup of their agriculture and FDA spending bill last week. 

The Senate spending bill, which the panel approved 28-0 after just over an hour of discussion, would fund the agencies at $25.993 billion, more than $8 billion above the funding level in the Republican-led House bill.  

Senate appropriators on Thursday adopted far higher 302(b) spending limits than those set by the House, setting the Agriculture-FDA cap at $25.9 billion. House Republicans, in comparison, adopted a spending cap of $17.8 billion for the Agriculture-FDA bill, sharply undercutting the spending caps in the deal to raise the debt ceiling reached by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Senate appropriators made minimal recissions in the bill, another contrast to the House bill, which clawed back nearly $8 billion in unspent Covid-19-era funds as well as money from Inflation Reduction Act Programs. The bill would not restrict Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s use of the Commodity Credit Corporation, another difference with the House bill, which seeks to rein in Vilsack’s ability to use those funds on programs to combat climate change. 

The $8 billion-plus difference in spending levels between the two chamber’s bills will make it “very challenging,” to reconcile them this fall, Hoeven acknowledged in remarks to reporters after the hearing. “There’s gonna be some compromises, but how they’re gonna handle that [in the House], I’m not sure.” 

What’s in the bill 

Nutrition: The Senate spending package would fund the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children at $6.3 billion, an increase over fiscal year 2023 and $300 million more than the House bill. The House bill would rescind another $500 million in unobligated funds from the WIC account. 

The Senate’s legislation would also require USDA to increase the value of WIC cash vouchers that can be used to purchase fruit and vegetables to “an amount recommended by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine and adjusted for inflation.” The House bill would cut the vouchers in half from their current levels. 

Research: The bill provides $1.792 billion for agriculture research, a top priority for farm states and a $48.6 million increase from fiscal year 2022. 

Food and Drug Administration: The bill would increase FDA’s budget by $20 million compared with last fiscal year. That includes a $3.75 million boost the beleaguered agency’s food safety program. 

Food safety: The Senate legislation would provide $1.205 billion for the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection service, an increase of $46.7 million year-on-year. 

International food aid: The bill proposes $1.8 billion in funding for the Food for Peace program and $248.3 million for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program.