The House of Representatives debated the agriculture appropriations bill for fiscal year 2015 on Wednesday. An amendment regarding funding for the Agriculture Department’s Office of Inspector General joined the Appropriations Committee’s amendments on horse slaughter and Chinese-processed poultry.
Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) offered an amendment to increase funding for the Office of Inspector General by $1 million in order to “protect our nation’s food supply.”
Thompson referenced the recall of 8.7 million pounds of meat processed by Rancho Feeding Corporation in 2013.
“Jobs, businesses and livelihoods are on the line,” he said. “The longer this investigation drags on, the more uncertainty businesses face. Following the results of the investigation, USDA must put in place practices and procedures that prevent this type of recall from occurring in the future.”
“The public has a right to know what happened, how the process broke down and who will be held responsible for it,” Huffman said. “Unfortunately, to date, we have received virtually no information about this from USDA.”
Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) supported the amendment, and it was agreed to by a voice vote.
During general speeches preceding the introduction and debate of amendments, Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) drew attention to a provision in the draft committee report that directs USDA not to implement or enforce country-of-origin labeling if the World Trade Organization rules against the U.S. this summer.
“While the primary goal of COOL is to give American-grown meat a competitive advantage, the result has been exactly the opposite,” Crawford said. “As a direct result of this policy, we’re not only seeing sharp increases in the cost of marketing and selling beef and pork, but trade retaliation from our closest trading partners will cost us billions of dollars in trade, which will kill U.S. jobs, harm our competitiveness, and have a long-term negative impact on American industry.”
Crawford called for the final appropriations bill to include “the strongest language possible to prevent any further harm.”
Also during general speeches, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) rose in opposition to the bill.
“Our job is to craft a budget that does right by American public — that helps kids get the nutrition that they need to grow, that fights hunger in all of our communities, and that ensures that our food supply is safe,” she said. “This budget fails in all of these regards.”
In relation to FSIS, DeLauro noted that the bill cuts $6 million from the agency and “no permanent inspectors will be able to be hired.”
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) offered an amendment to increase funds for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) by $5.5 million and decrease funds for the Farm Service Agency by a similar amount.
“Certainly farm conservation and regulation is very important, and that’s the function of the Farm Service Agency; however, food safety and food inspection is paramount because of all the problems that the country is facing today on this count,” Grayson said. “Every single instance of death and hospitalization [from foodborne illness] could be avoided if we had a … fully funded food inspection system.”
Aderholt opposed the amendment, stating that the bill already offers funding for FSIS above the president’s requested level and that the Farm Service Agency needs those funds in order to implement the farm bill.
The amendment failed on both a voice and a recorded vote.
Further action on the bill will continue next week.© Food Safety News