White House threatens to veto proposed USDA funding bill

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The White House threatened on Tuesday to veto the agricultural funding bill awaiting debate in the House, saying it would weaken regulation of the futures market and might force the furlough of meat inspectors, shutting down meat processing plants.

The White House said in a statement that the bill provides too little money for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which oversees the futures industry.

While the administration had requested $315 million for the CFTC, the House bill would allow $195 million, down $10 million from this fiscal year.

"The reduced funding level will seriously impede CFTC's implementation of critical Wall Street reforms to increase market transparency and integrity, reduce risks to the economy and protect consumers, and will unacceptably increase the risk of fraud and manipulation in the $30 trillion futures and $250 trillion swaps markets," the White House said.

House Republican leaders originally planned to bring the $139.5 billion agricultural funding bill for fiscal 2014 to a vote this week, but pulled it from the calendar on Monday.

However, the Rules Committee said it would meet on Tuesday to consider approving the bill for floor action.

The House bill also has $10 million less than the administration requested for the meat inspection agency.

Congress shifted funding earlier this year to avoid furloughs of meat inspectors, but inadequate funding makes furloughs a possibility again, the White House said.

"Decreased (meat) inspections will disrupt industry production," it said.

By law, packing plants cannot operate without USDA inspectors on hand.

The White House also said the bill rejects food aid reforms proposed by the White House, skimps on funding for agricultural research and might deny help to needy families through the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.

The Food for Peace program, the major U.S. food aid program, would be cut by more than 20 percent, to $1.15 billion, under the House bill.

The Obama administration proposed reforms to the program in April, including authority to use up to 45 percent of funding to buy food close to areas facing hunger.

Farm and maritime groups opposed the changes.

"By cutting emergency food aid funding and excluding the proposed changes to allow more efficient food aid, the bill would delay food aid to starving people up to 14 weeks and would preclude as many as 12 million people from receiving life-saving assistance than under the Administration's proposal," the White House said.

It listed 13 areas of concern about the funding bill and included the formal language of a veto threat: "If the president were presented with H.R. 2410 (the USDA bill), his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."

It was the second time this month the White House opposed a House bill on agriculture. On June 17, it threatened a veto of the farm bill, which was defeated last week.



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