Member Alert: Congress Passes Government Funding Bill, SFA Members Benefit

December 16, 2014

After a rare weekend session, the U.S. Senate recently passed a 1,774 page $1.1 trillion government funding bill that will keep the government running through next September. The bill which has been tied up in procedural disagreements, ultimately passed with bipartisan support in both Chambers. (Senate Vote Count: 56-40, House Vote Count: 219-206) President Obama signed the measure into law on December 16, 2014.

SFA commends Congress for not only avoiding a government shutdown, but also including many provisions which are important to SFA members in the final bill which can be seen below:

Hours of Service Relief: A provision in the final bill put a temporary hold on Hours of Service (HOS) provisions which became effective July 2013 including a “stay” of changes to the “34-hour restart”. Those changes limited use of the restart to once in a seven day period and required that it include two off-duty periods between 1:00 am and 5:00 am.

Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC): A provision has been included that will re-focus the report of the DGAC. The bill will task the Department of Health and Human Services with ensuring that its 15-member panel - charged with making policy recommendations to it and the USDA - focuses its work on nutrient and dietary recommendations "based on sound nutrition science." The bill states, "There is concern that the advisory committee...is considering issues outside of the nutritional focus of the panel. The advisory committee is showing an interest in incorporating agriculture production practices and environmental factors into their criteria for establishing the next dietary recommendations."

County of Origin Labeling (COOL): Another provision orders the USDA to prepare a report on how it would suggest changes to its COOL rules so that they comply with international trade agreements. By May 1, or within 15 days after a final resolution in the WTO dispute, the USDA would be required to provide a report to the House Agriculture Committee with proposed changes that do 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."

USDA Nutrition Standards for School Meals: The whole grain standards will be relaxed if the school in question can show hardship from the new regulations. Additionally, sodium restrictions will be frozen at current levels until science can probe that lowering the sodium level would benefit child health.

QUESTIONS? Contact Kailee Tkacz, Director Government Affairs at ktkacz@sfa.org