The most important provision forbids the Agriculture Department from spending any funds on the National Animal Identification System, or NAIS. The provision calls for USDA Secretary Mike Johanns to submit a "complete and detailed plan" for an animal ID program including potential cost estimates. Under the appropriations bill, government funding would not be reinstated until Johanns meets the provision's requirements.
But USDA officials have said they do not plan to make a cost estimate because the program requires farmers and ranchers to report the information to a private entity -- NOT the government.
The USDA has been trying to set up a tracking system ever since the first U.S. case of mad cow disease was discovered in December 2003. Last fall, Johanns defended the government's voluntary ID program in a written statement, saying...."You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone working in animal agriculture today who doesn't believe (an animal ID program) is a worthy objective and an important investment to make."
In addition to animal ID provisions, the appropriations bill DID NOT extend the Milk Income Loss Contract. Without an extension, the dairy program will not be included in the budget baseline for the 2007 farm bill.
Smaller agriculture programs listed as "earmarked" spending were blasted by Representative Jeff Flake. The Arizona Republican criticized what he considered excessive spending and received a swift response from Agriculture Appropriations Chairman Henry Bonilla of Texas.
"We cut this bill almost $100 million from last year and the earmarks being referenced in this debate make up 2% of this bill. So for all the grandiose statements that are being made about fiscal conservatism...BIG DEAL." Rep. Henry Bonilla (R) - Texas