NSAC's Blog

Congress Gears Up to Pass Three-Week Budget Extension

March 14, 2011

On Friday, March 11 the House of Representatives released a draft three-week continuing resolution (CR), which would fund most federal programs at fiscal year (FY) 2010 levels until April 8.   Conforming to House Republicans’ pledge to cut $2 billion per week until a long-term FY 2011 CR is passed, the three-week extension would cut $6 billion dollars in spending, including $3.5 billion from authorized programs and $2.6 billion in earmarks.

The current CR expires on March 18, so Congress must pass a funding bill–either another short term CR or long term (6-month) CR to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year–before then to avoid a government shutdown.

Among the reductions were 5 major cuts to agriculture research, extension, education, and conservation accounts.  USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) funding for salaries and expenses was slashed by more than $44 million relative to FY 2010 spending, while funding for salaries and expenses at the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) was cut by nearly $46 million, almost $12 million of which would be taken from USDA extension services.  These cuts in funding for salaries and expenses make it extremely difficult for USDA to implement its programs effectively.

On top of the cuts to salaries, the three-week CR reduces funding for NIFA research and education programs by $89 million, primarily for projects earmarked for particular states or institutions.

However, the bill also completely eliminates the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA), which is a critical resource for farmers, ranchers, and extension agents throughout the country.  As a widely used but very low cost program ($2.8 million), ATTRA is a good example of getting more bang for the buck, and its proposed termination suggests a motive that has little to do with deficit reduction.  NSAC objects strongly to this foolhardy move and will work to reverse it in the long term CR.

Finally, the short-term CR cuts the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) conservation operations budget by more than $37 million, limiting the Agency’s ability to provide our nation’s farmers and ranchers with the technical assistance necessary to conserve and produce.

Senate Democratic leaders have indicated the Senate intends to pass the House CR this week without putting up a fight.  Upon passage, Congress will either pass a “long-term” CR to cover the remainder of the fiscal year, or they will pass yet another short term CR, including a new set of budget cuts.

Click here to read more about the FY 2011 appropriations process, which began roughly one year ago.

Categories: Budget and Appropriations

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