CHN: Senate Completes Its Work on Agriculture Appropriations
Before leaving for the August recess, the full Senate approved FY 2010 funding for key anti-hunger programs in the Agriculture Appropriations bill (H.R. 2997). The House had previously enacted its version on July 9. In both cases, support was large and bipartisan, with a House vote of 266-160 and the Senate at 80-17. With the recession increasing the number of needy families, both the House and Senate increased funding for nutrition programs.
The Senate bill assumes the average monthly WIC caseload will rise to 9.8 million infants, young children, and pregnant women, up from a little over 9 million in May 2009. The Senate provides WIC funding of $7.552 billion, plus $487,000 remaining in the economic recovery legislation’s contingency fund. Although the House assumed even more participants (10.1 million), its funding was slightly lower, at $7.541 billion. This year, WIC received $6.86 billion, not counting economic recovery act funds. The Senate included within its WIC total $80 million for breastfeeding support initiatives ($60 million more than the House bill); it also included $60 million to improve management information systems, twice the amount in the House bill. The Senate and House both provide for increased fruit and vegetable vouchers for all women up to levels recommended by the Institute of Medicine.
The Agriculture Appropriations bill also includes funding for a number of emergency food programs. The Senate bill includes $233.388 million for the Commodity Assistance Program, the same as the President’s recommendation, but less than the $255.57 million included in the House Appropriations bill.
Funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which delivers monthly food packages mainly to low-income elderly, receives $162.818 million in the Senate bill; up from $160.43 million in FY 2009, and the same amount recommended by the President, but less than the $180 million approved in the House appropriations bill. In 2008, about 475,000 people were served, nearly 31,000 women, infants, and young children and the rest elderly.
The Senate and House bills include $253.25 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The Senate adds $49.95 million for TEFAP administrative expenses; the House provided $49.5 million. In FY 2009, the regular appropriation for TEFAP was $250 million plus $49.5 million for administrative expenses. (An additional $150 million was provided for FYs 2009-2010 through the economic recovery legislation.) The program distributes food commodities to non-profit agencies such as food banks.
In all, the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill included $24.046 billion in annual (discretionary) spending, $450 million more than the President’s request and $1.146 billion more than the House-passed bill. For FY 2009, total discretionary Agriculture spending was $21.355 billion, not counting economic recovery funds.
By the start of the August recess, the House of Representatives had enacted all of its 12 separate appropriations bills. In addition to the Agriculture Appropriations bill, the Senate has passed three others: Energy-Water, Homeland Security, and Legislative Branch. The Senate has a full agenda on its return in September, needing floor time to enact the remaining 8 appropriations bills and then time for negotiations with the House over the final versions. The new federal fiscal year begins October 1. In recent years, Congress has not managed to pass individual appropriations bills, but bundled them together in omnibus packages. This Congress may be able to take each bill up separately, but with health care and other important legislation competing for time, nothing is certain.