NADeFA Legislative Report, June 2013

Ag Bill Includes $3 Million for CWD Program

By Amanda Hill, Capitol Hill Consulting

On Thursday, June 6th, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture marked up its Fiscal Year 2014 spending bill, the legislation which funds all major agricultural services and food programs provided by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its related agencies. The bill included $3 million to support cervid health activities, namely the national CWD program. It also included $2.5 billion for agriculture research. The bill passed the full House Committee on Appropriations this morning (Thursday, June 13th.)

The Ag Appropriations bill is significant to NADeFA’s policy priorities on two fronts: 1) adequate funding of the national CWD program and its corresponding indemnity monies and 2) funding for agriculture research, including funding to support cervid-specific research to combat disease, pests and map the deer genome.

In recent years, the funding for the national CWD program has been drastically reduced from almost $20 million to about $1.5 million, just enough to carry out the administration of the rule, but not enough to fund CWD surveillance, testing or indemnity activities. When the President’s budget proposal was sent the Congress earlier this year, the portion prepared by USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recommended even further cuts and to eliminate federal contributions combating chronic wasting disease. It has been a top priority of NADeFA and Capitol Hill Consulting to reverse the USDA’s decision to defund the national CWD program through congressional intervention.

At the beginning of the FY2014 budget cycle, NADeFA Executive Director Shawn Schafer submitted congressional testimony on behalf of NADeFA to the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, urging them to preserve CWD funding in their budget. This was in conjunction with a round of meetings in February with the majority and minority committee staffs of both the House and Senate Ag Appropriations Subcommittees. This laid the foundation for the larger NADeFA fly-in, which occurred in early April.

During the April fly-in, NADeFA members met with more than 70 congressional offices, and a top request of them was to support CWD funding. The Chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee is Congressman Robert Aderholt of Alabama, making him the ultimate decision maker on this issue in the House. Fortunately, the Alabama Deer Association was able to join the fly-in and share their perspective on this issue. Will Ainsworth made a point of traveling to DC to participate in a meeting with Chairman Aderholt, where Will had the opportunity to share with him how a loss of funding would adversely affect his farm and the dozens of other deer farms in the Congressman's district. Along with requests for funding from Members of Congress from several other deer farming states (PA, TX, OK, NY....), Chairman Aderholt was supportive of NADeFA’s request and included $3 Million in funding and the following report language in his bill:

Cervid Health — The latest data from 2007 indicate that the cervid industry in the U.S. accounts for 5,600 deer farms and 1,900 elk farms, has an economic value of $894 million, and supports nearly 30,000 jobs. This industry is currently adapting to a 2012interim final rule that established a national, voluntary herd certification program (HCP) that provides uniform herd certification standards and will support the domestic and international marketability of U.S. cervid herds. The Committee believes that the industry requires additional support to ensure that the newly implemented chronic wasting disease HCP is successful. Therefore, APHIS should spend no less than $3,000,000 for cervid health activities. Within the funds provided, APHIS should give consideration to indemnity payments if warranted.

This is a tremendous success for the North American Deer Farmers Association and its members! Everyone who attended the Washington, DC fly-in and/or otherwise communicated with their representatives in Congress the needs of this industry are to be thanked and congratulated. The legislation also included $290 Million to fund the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, the program under which NADeFA is seeking research authority in the current Farm Bill.

The corresponding Senate Ag Appropriations bill is expected to be marked up at the subcommittee level next Tuesday, June 18, 2013, with full committee consideration to occur shortly after. The content of the Senate bill is not publicly available yet; however, based on conversations with Members of Congress and their staff, Capitol Hill Consulting is hopeful of a similar positive outcome in the Senate.

We will continue to work with NADeFA and their Members of Congress to ensure this funding is retained in the final version of the legislation, hopefully to be signed into law by the President later this summer or fall.