The House and Senate had passed different versions of H.R. 2997, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and rural programs. When the two Houses of Congress pass different versions of the same bill, a final version is typically negotiated in a conference between a limited number of members of both bodies, and a conference report is developed. That report then must be passed by both Houses before it is sent to the president to be signed into law. This was a vote on House passage of the conference report on H.R. 2997.
The measure provided $23.3 billion in funding, a 13 percent increase over the equivalent 2009 levels. Among the increases was one that was designed to enable the Food and Drug Administration to conduct more inspections of domestic and foreign food and medical products and another that added monies for farm operating and ownership loans. The bill also increased funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which had been criticized for not sufficiently monitoring speculation in the portion of the securities markets over which it has jurisdiction. Regarding a matter that had received particular press attention, the conference report included language requiring new onsite audits and inspections of Chinese poultry imports to insure that they comply with American sanitary conditions.
Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) chairs the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed the bill in the House and was among the leaders of the House conferees on the measure. She said that H. R. 2997 “focuses on several key areas such as: supporting agricultural research, investing in rural communities, protecting public health, bolstering food nutrition programs and food aid, and conserving our natural resources. The final bill invests in these priorities and the agencies that can help us to meet them while making specific and sensible budget cuts where feasible.”
Rep. Kingston (R-GA) is the Ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed the bill in the House. He said he was “concerned” about the increased amounts in the 2010 spending levels above 2009 “because . . . food prices haven't gone up that much.” Kingston illustrated his concern by noting that there was no fiscal year 2010 cost of living increase in Social Security, which “is based on inflation, which has a reflection of food.”
Kingston also opposed the increased levels because a number of areas funded by the measure had received monies in the economic stimulus legislation passed earlier in the year in response to the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Kingston added that the stimulus legislation “was financed not on tax dollars but on borrowed dollars and printed dollars. It's a package that our children's children will be paying for.”
Kingston argued that “we had an opportunity to save some money” during deliberations of the House-Senate conference committee, “but instead, what we did . . . was air-drop five new pilot programs: a summer food program for $85 million; equipment assistance program, $25 million; Women Infant and Children breast-feeding outreach at about $5 million; nutrition outreach for day care, $8 million; and direct certification expansion of $25 million.” He suggested that these programs “may have some merit”, but argued that “they did not come through the authorizing committee. They did not come through the Agriculture Committee. They were not debated. There were not hearings on them.”
The legislation passed by a vote of 263-162. Two hundred and forty Democrats and twenty-three Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and fifty-one Republicans and eleven Democrat voted “nay”. As a result, the House approved and sent to the Senate the final version of the fiscal year 2010 funding bill for the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and for rural programs.