Appropriations Update from Washington, D.C.JIM RICHARDS
Cornerstone Government Affairs
While the appropriations process for fiscal year 2017 is chugging along in Washington, D.C., the heat of the looming November elections is an ever present force increasingly keeping a check on congressional production.
In fact, the process will come to a screeching halt in the middle of July when members leave town to attend their respective political parties’ conventions. Upon its return in September, Congress will likely focus on passing a continuing resolution to fund the government past the November elections. The conclusion of the FY2017 appropriations process and any other substantive legislation largely hinges on who the next president will be, and if the republicans retain their majority in the Senate.
During April and May, the House and Senate Appropriations committees approved their respective FY2017 appropriations bills funding the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Two ASI priorities received positive attention with the inclusions of language directing the Agricultural Research Service to continue working on infectious disease issues and to work with stakeholders to propose mission improvements for the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station.
Other sheep related priorities addressed in the FY2017 agriculture appropriations bills include: the USDA-APHIS’ Equine, Cervid and Small Ruminant Health program, which includes funding for scrapie eradication, received $21 million in the House bill and $19.7 million in the Senate bill. Wildlife Damage Management received $100.38 million in the House bill and $102.09 million in the Senate bill, and the Wildlife Services Methods Development Program received $18.86 million in the House bill and $19.1 in the Senate bill.
In an effort to ensure sheep operations are not negatively affected by erroneous decisions to cancel grazing permits due to perceived bighorn sheep conflicts, ASI proposed that the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management be required to find alternative allotments and use sound science when making decisions. On May 25, the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee approved its version of the FY2017 bill funding the Department of Interior, EPA and USFS.
While the initial bill language did not include the resolution ASI had hoped for, the bill’s report included language directing the USFS and BLM to work with ARS on research involving the risk of disease transmission between domestic and bighorn sheep. The Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee approved its version of the bill on June 14 and the full Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to approve the bill as this issue of the Sheep Industry News goes to print.
While not public yet, our understanding is that the Senate included language that is at least as strong as that which was included in the FY2016 Omnibus Appropriations package, another step forward in your efforts to ensure that science drives decisions on federal lands, not emotions or ideology.
In addition, we continue working with ASI leadership and staff on other issues of importance to the industry, such as ongoing efforts to ensure AMS is reporting accurate, timely and comprehensive market data and to reinvigorate the minor use animal drugs programs.
ASI’s Washington, D.C., team will continue to engage members of Congress and their staff on all of the industry’s priorities and will report further developments as they occur. In closing, thank you for your ongoing faith in us and, more importantly, thank you for continuing to engage your members of Congress.