Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Government reports were mixed this week in their assessments of U.S. economic vitality. **In a revision of previous estimates, the Commerce Department reported that Gross Domestic Product, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S., grew at a blistering pace of 5.3 percent in the first quarter of this year… its fastest rate of growth in two-and-a-half years. **But orders for U.S.-made durable goods, those items meant to last three years or longer, tumbled an unexpectedly large 4.8 percent in April. **And, while existing home sales declined slightly last month, sales of new homes rose unexpectedly to their highest level this year, despite rising interest rates. Undaunted by loan costs and other financial accoutrements that hinder private citizens, the U.S. House of Representatives, this week, passed an agricultural spending bill that, among other things, delays USDA from implementing its animal ID program.
The U.S. House of Representatives dealt with a flurry of agricultural appropriations this week. Everything from milk...to farm subsidies was debated as part of an $18.4 billion fiscal year 2007 bill.
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