House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee Passes FY2012 Funding Bill
May 24th, 2011
On Tuesday, March 24, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies passed by voice vote its fiscal year (FY) 2012 agriculture appropriations bill, which would cut USDA and FDA discretionary programs by 13.4 percent on top of a similar amount in the FY 2011 bill completed last month. The 13.4 percent cut to the agriculture spending bill is the third highest of all the eleven spending bills that contain cuts.
Before the bill can become law, it will go to the full House Appropriations Committee, which must pass the bill before sending it to the floor for a vote. The Senate must also develop and pass its own funding bill, those two bills must be reconciled, and the President must sign off on the final package. As such, it is unlikely that all of the cuts proposed by the Subcommittee will make it into the final appropriations legislation in their current form.
The full Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill on May 31.
While a number of legislators voiced their opposition to cuts to nutrition and food programs, not a single member responded to the truly massive cuts to farm bill conservation, rural development, and research programs.
Thankfully, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) did speak out against the proposed revocation of USDA’s authority to implement the Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule. Rep. Kaptur noted that the Subcommittee’s bill would prevent USDA from implementing the rule even though the 2008 Farm Bill explicitly directs USDA to do so. The Congresswoman went on to submit for the record, on behalf of millions of family farmers and ranchers, a letter sent to Congress by NSAC and 143 other organizations in support of the GIPSA rule. You can read that letter here.
Rep. Kaptur also voiced her opposition to the zeroing out of the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), and noted that she may offer an amendment during full Committee markup to re-fund the program.
Meanwhile, the Senate has still not marked up or voted on a budget resolution, the first step that must happen before allocations can be made to the Senate appropriations subcommittee. The budget resolution has been on hold while various bipartisan negotiations have been underway seeking an agreement not only on the 2012 budget but also a long term budget deal that would clear the way to passage of the federal borrowing limit that must be raised by August. One bipartisan group of congressional leaders meeting with Vice President Biden has so far agreed on approximately $200 billion in spending cuts. Still under discussion are the major entitlement programs as well as revenue increases, among other topics. According to some reports, the amount agreed to so far by the Biden group includes a $34 billion farm bill cut (over the next decade), assumed to be achieved by completely eliminating commodity program direct payments.
Despite the lack of a budget agreement, letters from individual Senators to the Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee, in which they name their spending priorities, are due on Friday, May 27. Without a budget and thus without an allocation to work with, though, it will be difficult for Senate appropriators to actually start on bills.