The House Appropriations Committee today released the subcommittee draft of the fiscal year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which will be marked up in the Agriculture Subcommittee tomorrow. The legislation continues the trend of major spending reductions sought by the Republican majority, totaling $17.2 billion in discretionary funding -- a cut of over $2.6 billion from last year's level or over $5 billion below the President's budget request for these programs.
"While making smart yet significant cuts to save taxpayer dollars, the Agriculture Appropriations bill for next year also funds several important and necessary government programs, including agriculture research, rural development, and safety-net food and nutrition programs," House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said. "As is the goal of all our Appropriations bills this year, this legislation reflects hard decisions to cut lower priority programs, reduce spending in programs that can be scaled back, and target funds where they are needed most so that our nation continues on the path to fiscal recovery."
Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston also commented on the bill:
"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. 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."
The agencies and programs in this bill will receive a total of $125.5 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding, a reduction of more than $7 billion from the President's request. Discretionary funding is reduced by $2.7 billion from last year's level -- a cut of over $5 billion from the President's request. However, mandatory (automatic) 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.
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.
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. While trimming spending, this funding level will continue to support important and high-priority research on devastating crop diseases, emerging chemical and biological threats, food safety, and water quality. The funding will also maintain the nation's research investment in land-grant and other agricultural colleges and universities.
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). This funding will continue support for 29 programs to enhance control or eradication of plant and animal pest and diseases. The bill also allows the agency access to emergency funding should an unexpected agricultural threat emerge over the course of the year.
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. 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. Without these loans, low-income rural families would have few loan options for purchasing a home, simply because of their geographical location. 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 helps to address the educational and health challenges of rural America, providing $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