The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture met Thursday to review the FY2014 budget request for USDA. Several issues were addressed – including the proposal to shift food aid from U.S. commodity purchases to cash assistance funneled through the U.S. Agency for International Development. Subcommittee Chairman Mark Pryor and Ranking Member Roy Blunt told U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack they don’t support the idea. Pryor noted that the goals when the food aid programs were set up in the 1950s were to increase U.S. exports and feed hungry people. But Vilsack said the U.S. doesn’t have the surpluses it did in 1954 and there are markets for U.S. exports. He noted the change to cash assistance would save 500-million dollars over 10 years and added that 55-percent of the food would still be bought in the U.S.
Vilsack also addressed the short-term law that has become known as the Monsanto Protection Act. He said it is unnecessary, of questionable legality and has made it more difficult for USDA to develop rules and programs to allow for coexistence of organic and conventional and biotech crops. On the issue of school meal rules – Vilsack told Blunt and North Dakota’s John Hoeven the waivers that allow schools to serve more proteins and grains as long as they comply with calorie restrictions will likely be made permanent. USDA already extended the waiver for the 2013-14 school year.
Source: NAFB News Service