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Congressional budget includes $3M for biotech outreach

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House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement on a $1 trillion appropriations bill for FY-2017 — including a $3 million budget for the USDA and FDA to educate consumers on agricultural biotechnology and biotechnology-derived food products and animal feed.

The budget, which will fund the federal government through September, rejects most of the Administration’s proposed cuts in agriculture-related programs, including elimination of the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program and a sharp reduction in funding for the Food for Peace Program. The latter, known as P.L. 480, is funded at $1.6 billion, a cut of $112 million from the FY-2016 level, but significantly more than the level proposed by the Administration.

The American Soybean Association (ASA) has urged Congress to maintain funding for the programs and sent letters of support these past few weeks. The bill increases loan funding for the Farm Service Agency to assist farmers during this time of restricted access to credit and low commodity prices. This program ran out of funding last year, and this FY17 appropriations bill provides sufficient loan funding to meet current estimates for demand.

The budget will also provide $3 million for consumer biotech outreach and education activities by the USDA and FDA. The USDA and FDA will coordinate on education programs and materials, including publication and distribution of science-based educational information on the environmental, nutritional, food safety, economic, and humanitarian impacts of such biotechnology, food products, and feed.

The omnibus package does not include funding for the proposed cottonseed Title 1 program or a fix to the dairy Margin Protection Program. Instead, negotiators are directing Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to report on administrative and legislative actions that can be taken to provide financial relief to cotton farmers within 60 days of enactment. They also are encouraging the Secretary to use the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act to provide immediate assistance to dairy producers until a revised safety net can be provided in the 2018 Farm Bill.  Negotiators are also are encouraging the Secretary to use the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act to provide immediate assistance to dairy producers until a revised safety net can be provided in the 2018 Farm Bill.

The House passed the omnibus appropriations package on Wednesday with the Senate expected to follow before the current one-week CR expires on Friday.

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