President Obama this week signed the “Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015,” which funds most federal agencies through this fiscal year, which ends September 31, 2015. The exception is the Department of Homeland Security, which is only funded through February, because of a disagreement regarding the president’s Executive Actions on immigration.

Highlights of the bill that affect the chicken industry are as follows:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) total budget is $147.6 billion in mandatory and discretionary funding, an increase of more than $1.93 billion over fiscal 2014. The funding includes $81.8 billion in mandatory spending for food stamps and $21.3 billion in mandatory spending for child nutrition programs. The largest discretionary program in the bill, the women, infants and children nutrition program, would receive $6.62 billion. The Food and Drug Administration will receive $4.49 billion, including a $75 million increase in user fees for a total of $1.9 billion to be collected from industry. Other highlights include:

  • The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) has a budget of $43,048,000. Contained in the measure under Sec. 731 of the General Provisions is language that defunds any efforts by GIPSA to write, prepare, or publish a final rule or an interim final rule on proposed regulations pertaining to the 2008 farm bill.
  • The Agricultural Research Service (ARS)will receive $45,000,000 under the Buildings and Facilities account for the acquisition of land, construction, repair, and purchase of fixed equipment for the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SERPL) in Athens, Georgia and ensures that work will be completed at SERPL.
  • The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will have a total budget of $871,315,000 of which $3,973,000 will be used for the National Veterinary Stockpile that assists in the supply of critical veterinary countermeasures used for emergency preparedness and response efforts in the event of an intentional or unintentional introduction of an animal disease into the U.S. market. Also included in APHIS’ budget is $6,700,000 for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network; $52,340,000 for Avian Health; $16,417,000 for Veterinary Biologics; $31,540,000 for Veterinary Diagnostics; and $28,010,000 for Animal Welfare.
  • The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will receive $81,192,000. The bill directs the Secretary of Agriculture, in consultation with the U.S. Trade Representative, to submit to the House and Senate Committees on Agriculture, a report that contains “the Secretary’s recommendations for any changes in federal law that would be required for the establishment and implementation of a country-of-origin labeling program with respect to beef, pork, and poultry that does not conflict with, or is in any manner inconsistent with, the trade obligations of the United States, taking into account the findings contained in the report of the compliance panel established by the Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organization.”
  • The Food Service and Inspection Service will have a budget of $1,016,474,000 to carry out services authorized by the Meat, Poultry and Egg Inspection Acts, as well efforts in  implementing new poultry inspection rules and enforcing the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

Other areas of interest include:

  • Chinese Chicken: Also included in the general provisions of the bill is language that will prohibit processed poultry from China into feeding programs. The language says that “none of the funds made available by this Act may be used to procure processed poultry products imported into the United States from the People’s Republic of China for use in the school lunch program under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, the Child and Adult Food Care Program under section 17 of such Act, the Summer Food Service Program for Children under section 2013 of such Act, or the school breakfast program under the Child Nutrition Act of 1966.”
  •  Hours of Service: The measure includes language that would suspend the Department of Transportation regulations requiring two nights of rest after a week of driving for long-haul truckers. Under current rules, truck drivers can work as many as 14 hours a day, including 11 hours of driving. The DOL regulations curtailed practices allowing the 82 hour work week. The provision will suspend a mandatory second nighttime rest period while the agency studies whether the regulation has forced more drivers to operate during daytime hours, when there is more traffic congestion and crash risk.
  • Waters of the U.S.: The bill requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw an interpretative rule of 56 agricultural exemptions it had issued under Waters of the U.S., but does not block funding for EPA and the Corps to implement the final rule.  The bill also prevents the Army Corps of Engineers from regulating farm ponds, irrigation ditches, and the maintenance of drainage ditches under the Clean Water Act.