House Appropriations Committee aims to slice ag spending



By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

 

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 23 - The House Appropriations Committee released the subcommittee draft of the fiscal year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill, a cut in discretionary funding of over $2.6 billion from last year's level and over $5 billion below the President's budget request for these programs. However, mandatory funding in the bill increases by nearly $3 billion over last year to a total of $108 billion, and equals more than 86% of the total funding in the bill.

 

Although most line items were trimmed, crop insurance, the Women's Infants and Children's program, P.L. 480 Title 11 Grants and the Community Facilities loans were targeted for some of the largest reductions compared to the prior fiscal year. The Agriculture Subcommittee later meets late Tuesday to markup the $17.2 billion measure.

No funds would be provided to administer the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, the Rural Energy for America Program, the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, or the Federal Crop Insurance Act to provide a performance-based premium discount in the crop insurance program.

VerDate Nov 24 2008

 

“America is at a crossroads.  For every dollar the Federal government spends, 42 cents is borrowed.  The gross national debt is now 97 percent of GDP and we are rapidly becoming the next Greece, Spain, or Portugal,” said Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston. “Internationally, this weakens our standing as a global leader and our lenders such as China may seek to restructure our debt if we don't take care of it ourselves. Domestically, it hurts job creation, smothers the private sector and erodes some of our basic personal freedoms. 

 

“For our part, the Agriculture Subcommittee has sought to begin making some of the tough choices necessary to right the ship. We have taken spending to below pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels while ensuring USDA, FDA, CFTC and other agencies are provided the necessary resources to fulfill their duties.  Our members have worked to root out waste and duplication and, where they have strayed from their core mission, we rein in agencies so they may better focus on the responsibilities for which they are intended.  In doing so, we balance the urgent need for fiscal restraint with the necessity of a safe and abundant supply of food and life-saving medications.”

 
Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, met with members of the Iowa Soybean Association this spring to discuss funding priorities. Latham serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

 

For an overview of changes proposed in the draft:

 

Department of Agriculture:

 

Food and Nutrition Programs: Mandatory food and nutrition programs within the Department of Agriculture - including SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) and child nutrition - are funded at nearly $90 billion, $2 billion less than the President's request. This funding will allow all individuals and families who meet the programs' criteria for aid to receive all the benefits available to them, and includes $3 billion in reserve funds in case of unanticipated increases in participation or food price increases, according to a committee press release.

 

Child nutrition programs will receive $18.8 billion, which is $1.5 billion over last year's level and $40 million below the President's request. This funding will help provide low-income students with free or reduced price breakfasts and lunches at schools in every community in the nation. In addition, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program is funded at $5.9 billion. While this is a reduction of $832 million from last year, the bill allows the Secretary to utilize fiscal year 2011 carryover funds, $125 million in contingency funds, and other funding options currently authorized in law to allow participants to continue to receive the benefits for which they qualify.

 

Agricultural Research: The bill provides over $2.2 billion for agriculture research programs, including the Agriculture Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture. This is a reduction of over $354 million from last year's level.

 

Animal and Plant Health: The legislation includes $790 million - $73 million below last year's level - for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

 

Conservation Programs: The bill provides $770 million for Conservation Operations through which the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners to conserve, protect and enhance their land. This is a decrease of $99 million below last year's level.  "Funding is also provided for two key initiatives that will show how conservation programs help provide clean air and water, abundant wildlife and healthy landscapes, and help NRCS deliver conservation programs in the most cost-effective and farmer-friendly manner," according to a committee release. The bill also provides $15 million for dam rehabilitation to help small communities ensure their small watershed projects meet current safety standards.

 

Rural Economic Development: The bill provides a total of $2.1 billion for rural development programs - a decrease of $338 million from last year's level. Within this funding, $40 million is provided to support $846 million in loan authority for “502” direct loans - a program the President proposed slash by 85% - and $24 billion in loan authority for guaranteed single family loans. In addition, $890 million - $63 million below last year's level - is provided for rural rental assistance to provide affordable housing for low- income families and the elderly.

 

To support rural economies, $64 million ($20 million below last year) is provided for the Business and Industry program to support $626 million in loans for rural businesses, and $500 million ($27 million below last year) is provided for rural water and waste programs. The bill provides $15 million ($17 million below last year) for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program. In addition, the legislation provides for $7.3 billion in loan authority ($500 million below last year) for electric and telephone loans to help rural communities maintain these basic utilities.

 

Food Safety and Inspection Service: The legislation includes $973 million for food safety and inspection programs - a decrease of $35 million below last year's level. This funding level will continue critical meat, poultry, and egg product inspection and testing activities, and supports an expansion of a poultry inspection pilot project that will lead to improving food safety.

 

Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The FDA receives a total of almost $2.2 billion in discretionary funding in the bill, a cut of $285 million or -11.5% below last year's level - which is less than the overall cut to the bill of 13.4%. Total funding for the FDA, including user fees, is $3.7 billion.

 

For the complete text of the FY 2012 Subcommittee Draft Agriculture Appropriations bill, please visit: http://republicans.appropriations.house.gov/_files/MASTERBILLLANGUAGEAGRICULTUREFY2012_xml.pdf

 

 For a table comparing the FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill with last year's levels and the President's request, please visit:

http://republicans.appropriations.house.gov/_files/52311AgricultureSubMarkUpSummaryTable.pdf

 

For other Agri-Pulse news stories, go to: http://www.agri-pulse.com/

 

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