Most Recent Action    President's Request    Appropriations Process 

Update on FY2001 Agriculture Appropriations (10-19-00)

**For most recent update see the AGI website for the 107th Congress**

The Agriculture Appropriations bill funds the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration, Rural Development and other related agencies (H.R. 4461; S. 2536).  After agreeing to a budget resolution, the House and Senate decided on the discretionary, or 302(b), allocations for the 13 appropriation bills.  The House allocated $14.4 billion in budget authority for the Agriculture Appropriations bill, and the Senate allocated $14.9 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2001.  Key programs for the geosciences within this appropriations bill related to agriculture research and conservation programs.  As in past years, members of Congress have used the appropriation bills to attach legislative riders.

Most Recent Action
After a long negotiation process, the Conference Committee released its report (H. Rept. 106-948) on the FY 2001 Ag bill on October 6, 2000.  USDA received a grand total of $15 billion in discretionary spending from the Conference Committee.  This amount is less than either the FY 2000 level or the President's request.  Funding for agriculture research did receive a slight boost from last year's allocation to total nearly $2 billion -- $899 million for Agriculture Research Service programs and $506 million for Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service projects.  More details on the report and the Administration's response to the bill is available below.  Just days after the committee released its report, the House passed the conference version in a 340-75 vote.  On October 18, 2000, the Senate passed the conference bill in a 86-8 vote.  The President is expected to sign the bill by the end of the week, despite several objectionable provisions in the bill.  A provision that has gained attention lately has been one that would lift sanctions in several countries, particularly Cuba, to open these markets for American agricultural products.  A White House Office of Management and Budget Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) stated that the administration has two major concerns over the Cuban provision.  First, the legislative language would restrict the President's power to supervise sanctions and is "overly stringent."  Second, the section of the provision that would codify limited travel of Americans to Cuba "would significantly set back our people-to-people exchanges that are in the interest of opening up Cuban society."


  House Action    Senate Action    Conference Action 

House Action
The House Appropriations Committee began holding hearings on the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies (Ag) Appropriations bill shortly after the President released the budget request in February.  The series of hearings focused on specific programs within the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other agencies under the Ag bill.  On March 2nd, the Agriculture Subcommittee held a hearing to review the budget request for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRC).  The NRC was established during the mid-1930s Dust-Bowl catastrophe to help farmers and the nation in soil conservation and land stewardship.  Today, the agency works with state, regional, and local governments, farmers and ranchers to develop conservation systems uniquely suited to their land and type of work.  Within the NRC are programs on Watershed Surveys and Planning, Wetlands Reserves, Soil Surveys and several others.

A few days after the hearing on NRC, the subcommittee met to listen to testimony regarding the Research, Education and Economic agencies within the USDA.  The programs included in the REE services include the Agriculture Research Service, the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, the Economic Research Service, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

In early May, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture met to review the entire Ag Appropriations bill.  According to the press release from the meeting, general conservation programs would receive an increase of $16 million over FY2000 levels to total $676.8 million, and agriculture research would remain on the FY2000 level of close to $906 million.  Shortly after the subcommittee markup, the full House Appropriations Committee marked up H.R. 4461, the number given to the Agriculture Appropriations bill.  The full committee maintained the funding decisions for agriculture research and conservation programs that the subcommittee released on May 4th.  At this meeting, several amendments were offered, including two contentious amendments.  One amendment was introduced by Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) that would prohibit the funding of any programs that are designated under the Kyoto Protocol.  Another amendment would lift trade sanctions for food and medicine to such countries as Cuba, Libya, North Korea, and the Sudan.  On May 16th, the committee released their report (H. Rept. 106-619) and placed the bill on the House floor calendar.

In response to the House version of the Ag bill, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a Statement on Administrative Policy (SAP) threatening a presidential veto if what it deemed as "severe underfunding of critical programs and highly objectionable language provisions in the bill" remain.  Below is the SAP section on the conservation and environmental programs:

The Administration strongly opposes a number of reductions to important conservation and environmental programs contained in the Committee bill, which would reduce benefits to all Americans by cutting or eliminating key activities proposed to be carried out through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The bill and report include highly objectionable language prohibiting NRCS funds from being used for climate change, biomass, urban resources partnerships, most of the American Heritage Rivers (AHR) initiative, or the Community Federal Information Partnership. These actions would harm local community development and environmental restoration efforts. The AHR is an interagency initiative that applies coordinated Federal resources to benefit all river communities, helps communities evaluate their needs and identify funding sources, and cuts red tape so they can promptly implement priority practices. In addition, NRCS soil databases provide the foundation for the Nation's vital soil carbon sequestration efforts. The Committee's action could limit the ability of all USDA agencies that rely on NRCS data to advance valuable research on the effects of climate change on agriculture and potential ways for farmers to adapt to climate change.

These restrictions, coupled with the $70 million reduction to the request for NRCS conservation operations salaries and expenses, would result in a significant step backwards in efforts to improve land stewardship capabilities of farmers and ranchers. Furthermore, the Administration strongly objects to the Committee's reduction in authorized mandatory funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to $174 million. This represents a cut of $26 million from current law and $151 million from the President's request. This program is vitally important in assisting farmers and ranchers in improving their agricultural operations while benefiting all Americans through cleaner water and air, and it is an important component of the Clean Water Action Plan. Coupled with the Committee's funding only $9 million of the requested $48 million increase in discretionary funds for the Plan, this reduction would severely impede progress on cleaning up our Nation's waters. We urge the House to eliminate the EQIP reduction and fully fund the Administration's request for the Clean Water Action Plan.

The House of Representatives, after four drawn-out days of debate due to the July 4th recess, passed H.R. 4461, the FY 2001 Agriculture Appropriations bill, in a 339-82 vote.  During the floor debate, the House passed several amendments to the bill that would change funding levels for agriculture research and conservation activities, such as an amendment offered by Rep. Eva Clayton (D-NC) that would increase funding for land-grant colleges by nearly $7 million and decrease funding for the Agriculture Research Service by $6.8 million.  Another amendment affecting research and conservation was offered by Rep. Sue Kelly (R-NY) that strikes out language added during the Appropriations Committee markup to prohibit the use of funds for the American Heritage Rivers initiative, a presidential pet-program.  One of the last amendments approved by the chamber before the final vote was introduced by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) to urge the Secretary of Agriculture to "use ethanol, biodiesel, and other alternative fuels to the maximum extent practicable in meeting the fuel needs of the Department of Agriculture."

Senate Action
The Senate Appropriations Committee began working on their version of the Agriculture Appropriations bill, S. 2536, at the same time as the House.  On May 9th, the full committee met to markup S. 2536.  According its press release, the Senate version would allocate $14.85 billion in discretionary funding to programs in the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies (Ag) Appropriations bill.  Agriculture research would increase by $60.4 million over last year's allocation -- Agriculture Research Service would receive $871.6 million and Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service would receive $964.8 million.  Conservation activities would total $867.6 million, a $63.4 million increase over the FY2000 level.  Within the conservation programs, the Natural Resources Conservation Service would receive an increase of $53.3 million over last year's allocation, to total $714 million.  During committee debate, an amendment (similar to one offered in the House) was offered by Sens. Bryon Dorgan (D-ND) and Slade Gorton (R-WA) that would lift trade sanction for food and medicines to allow struggling American farmers increased access to these foreign markets.

Another topic that has gained some interest in the Senate version is a provision (Sec. 3105) that would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from using funds to revise sections of the Office of Surface Management regulations regarding hardrock mining on federal lands:

None of the funds made available under this Act or any other Act shall be used by the Secretary of the Interior, in this or the succeeding fiscal year, to promulgate final rules to revise or amend 43 C.F.R. Subpart 3809, except that the Secretary may finalize amendments to that Subpart that are limited to only the specific regulatory gaps identified at pages 7 through 9 of the National Research Council report entitled ``Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands'' and that are consistent with existing statutory authorities. Nothing in this section shall be construed to expand the existing statutory authority of the Secretary.
According to a Mineral Policy Center email alert, the provision was sponsored by Sens. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) and Larry Craig (R-ID), and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) is working to remove the rider from the Ag bill.  More information on hardrock mining on federal lands is available on the AGI Mining Law of 1872 Reform Update.  On May 10th, the Senate Appropriations Committee released its report (S. Rept. 106-288) and placed S. 2536 on the Senate floor calendar for debate.

On July 20th, the Senate passed its version of the FY 2001 Agriculture Appropriations bill, S. 2536, in a 79-13 vote.  Several amendments were offered during floor debate.  Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), for Senator Don Nickles (R-OK), introduced an amendment to fund biomass-based energy research that passed the Senate.  Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), supported by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), offered an amendment to clarify the hardrock mining regulations provision introduced during the Appropriations Committee markup of the bill by Sens. Larry Craig (R-ID) and Frank Murkowski (R-AK), but the amendment failed to pass the Senate due to a point of order.  Now that both chambers have passed their version of the Ag bill, they will meet in conference committee to work out differences.

Conference Action
The Senate appointed Senators Christopher Bond (R-MO), Conrad Burns (R-MT),  Robert Byrd (D-WV), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Byron Dorhan (D-ND), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA),  Slade Gorton (R-WA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Herbert Kohl (D-WI), Mitch McConnell (R-KY),  Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Ted Stevens (R-AK) to the Conference Committee.  The House appointed Represenatives Joe Skeen (R-NM), James Walsh (R-NY), Jay Dickey (R-AR), Jack Kingston (R-GA), George Nethercutt (R-WA), Henry Bonilla (R-TX), Tom Latham (R-IA), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), C.W. Young (R-FL), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Sam Farr (D-CA), F. Allen Boyd D-FL), and David Obey (D-WI).

After months of negotiation between the House and Senate, the Conference Committee released its version of the FY 2001 Agriculture appropriation bill.  The Conference Report (H. Rept. 106-948) was released on October 6th and provides $74.5 billion to USDA, including mandatory funding and discretionary funding.  Discretionary funding for the department if $15 billion, nearly identical to the President's request for USDA.  According to the Senate Appropriations Committee press release, the conference bill "provides increased appropriations for agriculture research and education program, " totaling $2 billion for these activities.  The House Appropriations Committee press release states that conservation operations activities received $714 million, a $53.3 million increase over last year's allocation.

The Agriculture Research Service received $898.8 million for research and related costs, including $350 thousand "for soil tilth research, . . . to be utilized for carbon cycle research."  Funding for the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service was allotted $506.2 million for research and education and $433.4 million for extension activities.  Research and education programs that might be of interest to the earth science community include: biomass-based energy research ($902 thousand), drought mitigation ($200 thousand), global change/ultraviolet radiation ($1.4 million), and several projects in sustainable agriculture ($997 thousand).

Conservation activities within USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service totaled $873 million, a $69 million increase over the FY 2000 enacted level.  Funding for conservation operations came to $714.1 million, including $2 million for the Urban Partnership program and $204 thousand for the American Heritage Rivers program.  Watershed surveys and planning activities received $10.9 million that will provide another $136 thousand for the American Heritage Rivers program.  Watershed and flood prevention operations was allotted $99.4 million that includes $8 million for "Emergency Watershed Protection activities for Mississippi, Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Ohio for financial and technical assistance for pilot rehabilitation projects."  Resource conservation and develop programs received $42 million, and the forestry incentive program received $6.3 million.

On October 11, 2000, the White House Office of Management and Budget released a Statement of Administration Policy that stated, "While the Administration continues to support a range of conservation efforts, such as the Farmland Protection, Wetlands Reserve, and Environmental Quality Incentive Programs, and is disappointed that this bill did not provide full funding for these efforts, we do appreciate the increases that were provided including funds for conservation technical assistance.  However, while the Administration supports this conference report, it has concerns with several provisions in the bill."  The statement is far from a veto threat but does note the President's concerns for provisions of the bill.  Despite the less than enthusiastic presidential support, the House passed H.R. 4461 on October 11, 2000, in a 340-75 vote.



Sources: Mineral Policy Center, USBudget.com, House Appropriations Committee website, EENews National Resources Conservation Services website, US Department of Agriculture website, and Library of Congress.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Margaret Baker, AGI Government Affairs

Posted May 25, 2000: Last Updated October 19, 2000


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