Alarming nutrition advocates and raising worries in the farm lobby, the House has finished its work on the fiscal year 2012 agricultural appropriations bill, approving the package by a vote of 217 to 203.
The bill, approved June 16, provides $125 billion to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and related agencies, $7 billion less than President Obama requested. The bill cuts $2.7 billion in discretionary spending from last year and $5 billion less than the White House requested.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., slammed the bill,
“The Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program, which provides nutrition assistance for low-income pregnant women, mothers, and their young children, has been gutted by over $650 million and other nutrition programs for seniors and those in need are woefully underfunded,” DeLauro said in a statement.
She also said funding for the Food and Drug Administration was cut by more than $280 million, which she said will put families at risk.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, also voted against the legislation, which he said made disproportionate cuts to farm bill programs, conservation and nutrition funding.
The National WIC Association, Washington, D.C., said in an e-mail the House 2012 appropriations bill is woefully inadequate and will cut 13% in WIC food resources and 10% from nutrition services.
“Quite simply WIC will be underfunded by at least $782 million off of NWA’s recommendation of $6.83 billion and by at least $686 million off of the Fiscal Year 2011 funding level,” the statement from the association said.
Between 200,000 and 350,000 mothers and children will be denied WIC benefits, according to the group.
The Senate is expected to mark up its agriculture appropriations bill in September. After that, differences between the two bills will be settled in conference committee.
Among amendments approved by the full House, members voted to prohibit the use of funds to provide payments to the Brazil Cotton Institute ($147 million). That could create trade friction with Brazil, which was set to receive payments as part of a trade settlement to compensate Brazil for illegal U.S. cotton subsidies. A rekindling of a trade conflict may cause Brail to slap retaliatory tariffs on U.S. fruit exports, because Brazil was prepared to do last year before the settlement was announced.
The House also approved an amendment that prohibits funds from being used for the USDA “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative. That program, promoted heavily by deputy secretary of agriculture Kathleen Merrigan, emphazised what she called the “need for a fundamental and critical reconnection between producers and consumers.”