The House Appropriations Committees approved its FY ’15 agriculture appropriations bill after a lengthy debate on school nutrition standards.  The bill would requires USDA create a waiver program for school districts to opt out of the rule requiring them to serve more nutritious meals if the district can show that the new requirement causes a financial burden.

 Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “The House bill would undermine the effort to provide kids with more nutritious food and would be a major step backwards for the health of American children, just at the time childhood obesity rates are finally starting to level off.” 

The bill provides $20.9 billion in discretionary funding, which is equal to last year’s appropriations.  It includes $1 billion for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).  The committee rejected the administration’s request for user fees for meat and poultry inspections. 

The bill provides $870.7 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is an increase of $45.8 million.  The bill includes funding for porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) research. 

The trade promotion programs, Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) and Market Access Program (MAP) are fully funded.  The committee stated its strong concerns with the current Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) program by stating in report language that USDA should discontinue the current COOL requirements if the U.S. loses the WTO case filed by Canada and Mexico. 

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its FY ’15 agriculture appropriations bill earlier.  This bill provides $1.023 billion for FSIS, an increase of $12 million over last year and also does not include a user fee for inspection of meat, poultry, and eggs.  It also includes funding to control and eradicate feral swine and provides funding for research and surveillance of PEDV.  The bill includes a ban on horse slaughter in the U.S. 

The bills are expected to be considered by the House of Representatives and the Senate in June.