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House Ag Appropriations Bill Moves Through Committee

House Ag Appropriations Bill Moves Through Committee

Fiscal 2015 agriculture funding bill retains school lunch waiver provision

The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved the fiscal year 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill on a vote of 31-18, releasing a final product that totals $142.5 billion, including $20.9 billion in discretionary funding.

"This bill invests in the people of this country – in their safety, their livelihoods, and their communities – and ensures that our agricultural industries are successful, productive, and safe," House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said in a released statement.

Fiscal 2015 agriculture funding bill retains school lunch waiver provision (USDA photo)

The committee spent several hours debating a few touchy pieces of the bill, one of them being a much-discussed provision to allow schools demonstrating an "economic hardship" to seek a temporary waiver from compliance with school lunch regulations during the 2014-15 school year.

Several food and nutrition groups opposed the provision, as did USDA Secretary Vilsack. Vilsack reaffirmed his position earlier this week during a conference call that coincided with a school nutrition meeting led by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House.

Related: Vilsack Dismisses Legislative 'Fix' for School Lunch Standards

During the call, Vilsack said the concern about a waiver is two-fold – one, the standards ensure improved access to healthier foods, and two, a waiver would require additional oversight.

"That's the concern – one of the concerns with the waiver – it's so difficult to determine if a school district is really financially struggling," Vilsack said. "And it's somewhat puzzling, because we're actually putting additional money into the program."

An amendment offered by Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., to strike the waiver language was defeated 22-29.

A selection of other amendments to the FY 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill, however, were adopted by the full committee:

• An amendment from Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., to add $155 million for the Agricultural Research Service Building and Facilities account for the purchase, repair, improvement, or construction of equipment and facilities; adopted on voice vote.

• An amendment from Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., to prohibit funding for inspections of horse slaughter facilities in the U.S.; adopted on a vote of 28-22.

Related: School Lunch Standards Cause Food Fight

• An amendment from Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., to prohibit funds to purchase processed poultry from China for use in school lunch programs; adopted on a voice vote.

• An amendment from Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., to add report language encouraging FDA to accept certain types of clear, visible calorie displays on products served through vending machines; adopted on a voice vote.

For full text of the bill, visit the House Appropriations Committee website.

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