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Agriculture Targeted for 14 Percent Cut By House GOP

February 3, 2011

On Thursday, February 3, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that next week he will set a budget ceiling for all discretionary federal government spending for the current fiscal year (FY 11) of $1.055 trillion, a figure $32 billion lower than the current short-term “continuing resolution” (CR) the government is operating on.  The short-term CR expires March 4, and the House plans to debate and vote on a long-term CR the week of February 14.  The long-term CR would fund the government for the remainder of FY 11.

The $32 billion figure is a net figure, after accounting for certain defense and security increases.  A total of $40 billion in cuts are aimed at non-defense discretionary spending.

The $32 billion figure is also relative to the current short-term CR.  Relative to President Obama’s budget request for FY 11 made last February, the figure is $58 billion.

Also on February 3, House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) announced the allocation of the spending reductions to be supplied by each part of the government.  Overall, domestic discretionary spending is targeted for a 9 percent cutback, to be achieved in just the remaining 7 months of the current fiscal year.

Agriculture High on Chopping Block

Agriculture is targeted for the third highest percentage cut — 14 percent or $3.2 billion.  Only Commerce/Justice/Science at 16 percent and Transportation/HUD at 17 percent do worse than Agriculture under the new House GOP allocations.  Defense receives the only increase (2 percent, or a $9.6 billion increase) while Homeland Security remains level at its FY 10 funding amount.

Details on how the GOP budget and appropriations leaders intend to slice $3.2 billion from the combined USDA and FDA discretionary budget of $23.3 billion (the FY 10 level) will not be known until sometime late the week of February 7 when their bill is released.

In general, though, the leaders’ game plan is to reduce individual funding accounts to their FY 08 levels.  If the bill to be released next week does that without any adjustments, some of the accounts taking very large hits in the House GOP bill would include the WIC feeding program, food safety funding at USDA and FDA, direct Farm Service Agency farm operating and ownership loans (a majority of which are targeted for beginning and minority farmers), Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, National Organic Program, and Conservation Technical Assistance, among others.

The GOP leadership is expected to face some consternation from some of their own rank and file Members who will see the proposed $32 billion cut as too small relative to GOP campaign promises prior to last year’s election.  In response to those concerns, the leaders have promised a fairly open rule to allow Members to offer amendments on the floor to increase the size of the overall cuts or to change spending priorities.

While the House GOP is concentrating nearly all of its efforts on just the third of the federal budget represented by discretionary (annually appropriated) spending, Senate Democrats are looking at a broader deficit-cutting budget agreement that would include mandatory and entitlement spending as well as tax reform.  Such an effort, accounting for all types of spending (including entitlements and tax breaks) rather than the minority share represented by appropriations, would be more difficult and time-consuming to reach agreement on.

In the meantime, once the House has passed its version of the FY 11 CR, Senate appropriators and leadership will be faced with a decision of how to respond prior to the March 4 deadline.  Senate Appropriations Chair Daniel Inouye (D-HI) has already indicated that an extension of the deadline will almost certainly be needed, especially in light of the Presidents Day week-long congressional recess.

We plan on keeping readers closely informed as this drama plays out, calling particular attention to what happens to priority sustainable and organic agriculture, family farm, conservation, healthy food, and rural development programs.  The next stop will be the release of the House GOP FY 11 bill next week, to be followed by the President’s budget request for FY 12 on Monday, February 14, to be followed immediately by House floor debate back on the FY 11 bill.  Stay tuned!

Categories: Budget and Appropriations

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