House Agriculture Committee Action

On Wednesday, June 24, the House Agriculture Committee began a full-scale review of U.S. international food aid programs with a hearing focused on the nation’s international efforts to alleviate hunger and malnutrition and to enhance food security. Members heard from representatives of the Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Discussions centered on the efficiency of the programs, potential areas of improvement, and the importance of maintaining an appropriate balance of in-kind and cash-based assistance while affirming that any additional reforms should be considered in the context of the next farm bill. 

On Thursday, June 25, the House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee held a joint hearing with the House Committee on Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee addressing how certain welfare programs and related benefits can discourage work as a result of the high effective marginal tax rates they impose on certain populations. While these programs nominally support and encourage employment, program “phase-out rules” – especially when combined across multiple programs – mean certain households may not be significantly better off if they work or increase their earnings from work. Members stated that while federal welfare programs are vital in providing assistance to vulnerable citizens, those programs can act as more of a trap than a safety net.  

Later that afternoon, Rep. Rodney Davis, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research, held a public hearing to review the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) marketing programs. Dr. Craig Morris, Deputy Administrator of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Livestock and Seed Program provided an overview of AMS programs that facilitate the marketing of U.S. agricultural products. Members also touched on ongoing efforts with the Energy and Commerce Committee to create a uniform, science-based, national framework governing the use of labeling claims regarding genetically engineered food or food ingredients. Members highlighted the importance of making sure food labeling provides consistent, truthful information that does not confuse or mislead consumers. The committee will continue to work with the Energy and Commerce Committee to establish a national framework for claims relating to genetic engineering that provides the transparency consumers are looking for while protecting farmers’ and developers’ rights to use safe, proven technology to produce food.

Next Week at the Ag Committee  

The House is in recess.

House Highlights
On Tuesday, the House passed H.R. 1190, the Protecting Seniors' Access to Medicare Act, by a vote of 244-154. H.R. 1190 repeals sections 3403 and 10320 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which established the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).  PPACA established IPAB, an unelected fifteen member board, to "reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending."  IPAB has the authority to make recommendations regarding Medicare without any input from Congress and to cut spending on healthcare treatments. 

On Wednesday, the House passed
H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015, by a vote of 247-180. H.R. 2042 postpones the dates by which states and operators of existing fossil-fuel fired power plants must comply with any final rule addressing emissions of carbon dioxide proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) until after completion of judicial review. 

On Thursday, the House passed
H.R. 1295, the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015, by a vote of 286-138. H.R. 1295 reauthorizes and revises the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), extends the preferential duty treatment program for products from Haiti, reauthorizes Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), and strengthens the enforcement of anti-dumping and countervailing duty laws.