Today, Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-TX), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, issued the following statement regarding legislation introduced by Senator Hoeven (R-ND) and Senator Stabenow (D-MI) that ties repeal of country of origin labeling (COOL) to both the elimination of existing market driven programs and the establishment of a so-called voluntary country of origin (COOL) labeling program for beef, pork, and chicken. This new voluntary program would operate under similar rules as the program found to violate U.S. international trade rules.
Committee Passes Balanced Reconciliation Package
WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Committee on Agriculture passed the agriculture reconciliation package proposed by Chairman Bob Goodlatte by a vote of 24-20 in today’s mark-up. The total package includes $3.7 billion in savings, a 23 percent increase over the $3 billion required in the reconciliation instructions included in the Budget Resolution passed by the House and Senate in April 2005.
“I am pleased that the Committee agreed to a balanced and fiscally responsible reconciliation package preventing any one program from unduly bearing the lion’s share of the cuts. It is unrealistic to think we can meet the pressing challenges facing our nation without reducing federal spending and redirecting priorities. Commodity, conservation, rural development and nutrition programs all contributed to the agricultural savings of $3.7 billion,” said Chairman Goodlatte.
Three amendments were offered although none garnered sufficient support for passage. The reconciliation package will be reported to the Budget Committee where it will be combined with packages from the seven other authorizing committees that were give reconciliation instructions into an omnibus reconciliation package.
The reconciliation package passed by the Committee includes $617 million in savings in 2006 and an overall reduction in mandatory spending of $3.7 billion over five years (FY06-10). The reconciliation package includes reductions in a variety of programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction including commodity, conservation, energy, rural development, research and the food stamp programs.
The total reduction in commodity programs including direct payments and the elimination of the Step 2 cotton program is $1.007 billion over five years. Conservation programs account for $760 million in savings. Rural development program funding reductions account for $446 million over five years, while energy programs account for $23 million in savings. Research programs contribute $620 million to the total reduction package. Despite the fact that the Committee authorized and funded all of the rural development, energy and research programs that are contributing to the savings, in each of the last three years, the appropriations process has prevented these programs from being implemented by removing the mandatory spending used to fund these programs.
Finally, the reductions for the food stamp program account for less than a half of a percent of the total food stamp budget or $844 million over five years. This accounts for a reduction of about a half of a penny for every dollar spent on the food stamp program. While food stamps comprise nearly 60 percent of the Committee’s mandatory spending, it received less than 25 percent of the total savings under the package and only applies to non-citizens with a permanent residency status of less than seven years and those who are not Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) qualified (a proposal that was included in the President’s budget). By tightening the eligibility requirements, this legislation ensures that the nations most needy will continue to receive their federal assistance.