The House Appropriations Committee approved a $125 billion U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration fiscal year (FY) 2012 spending package on a voice vote. With virtually no debate, the committee agreed to accept Rep. Jeff Flake's, R-Ariz., amendment to prohibit funds from being used for farm program payments to those with an adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeding $250,000. Current law sets a three-year average adjusted gross income cap of $750,000 on farm income and $500,000 on non-farm income for farm program eligibility. Flake said funds derived from his amendment would go towards debt reduction.
During the markup, no committee member spoke in opposition to the Flake amendment and only one committee member's voice was loud enough to be heard voting against it. Full funding for the Market Access and Foreign Market Development Programs remained at $200 million and $34.5 million, respectively.
International emergency food aid is reduced by $456 million in the committee bill, but members learned that new language is being discussed -- for consideration during floor debate -- to allow 20 percent of non-emergency food-aid funds to be transferred by USDA to emergency food-aid uses. FY 2012 spending cuts proposed for various USDA conservation and research programs remained in the committee bill.
USA Rice Federation contends that 2008 farm bill policies represent a contract with producers through 2012. Any policy changes should be considered in the context of the next farm bill debate within the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.