May 13, 2011
On Wednesday, May 11, House Republican appropriations leaders outlined their plans for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 government funding bills, with a goal to scale back funding by a net of $30 billion relative to FY 2011 (and $122 billion relative to the Administration’s requested levels). The Department of Defense appropriation would shoot up $17 billion, thus making the cutbacks for everything else funded by the appropriations bills total $47 billion.
Agriculture has been asked to come up with a $2.7 billion or 13.4 percent cut, on top of the $3 billion or 14 percent cut included in the final FY 2011 bill. The FY 2011 bill for agriculture included the removal of all congressional earmark funding, a fairly sizable number of rescissions of funding left over from previous fiscal years, and the termination of several programs that had long been on the potential budget chopping block. This next time around, few if any of those options will be available because they are already gone. The cuts will therefore be even more serious, cutting into very basic functions and programs in agricultural research, food safety, nutrition, rural development, conservation, food aid, and farm credit.
Compounding the dire situation, the final FY 2011 agriculture spending bill took nearly $500 million in farm bill mandatory funding from conservation programs to lessen the total amount of discretionary funding that needed to be taken to reach the prescribed funding level. Were the FY 2012 bill to do something similar, it would not only once again shortchange conservation and increase the number of farmers who cannot get access to the programs, but would also sharply reduce the amount of funding available to the Agriculture Committee when it sits down to write the 2012 Farm Bill next year.
The 13.4 percent cut to the agriculture spending bill is the third highest of all the eleven bills that contain cuts. The State Department and foreign aid bill was handed a 17.8 percent reduction and the transportation bill a 13.9 percent reduction. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the Military Construction bill (0.1 percent), Homeland Security (2.6 percent), and Energy and Water (3.3 percent), and of course the Defense bill (half of all discretionary spending) which would increase by 3.3 percent.
The staff of the Agriculture Subcommittee has only a week to put the draft bill together. Subcommittee markup is scheduled for Tuesday, May 24, with full Committee markup to follow a week later on May 31. Full Committee Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) said this week he aims to have nine of the twelve appropriations bills, including agriculture, passed by the full House prior to the congressional August recess.
The comments of the Chair and Ranking Member on Wednesday lay out the party positions succinctly going into the FY 2012 round of funding bills. Rogers noted, “Many of these cuts will not win any popularity contests, but these types of reductions are imperative to overcoming our unparalleled fiscal crisis so that we can get our economy moving, create jobs and provide future financial security.”
Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-WA) countered, “These reductions are irresponsible and they would necessitate draconian cuts to programs that Americans depend on. Rather than presenting a reasonable budget that continues the momentum of our economic recovery, the Republicans have decided to double-down on their bogus economic theory called ‘cut and grow.'”
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. When and if a long term deal or framework gets worked out is a matter of great speculation. With the delay, it becomes increasingly likely the Senate Budget Committee will need to move forward with a budget resolution without the benefit of a larger deal being in place.
Despite the lack of a budget agreement, the Senate appropriators need to get their process underway even if their top line number remains an unknown. Senators have been asked therefore to submit their funding requests for the agriculture spending bill to the Appropriations Committee by May 27.
Categories: Budget and Appropriations