Senate committee approves ag appropriationsWritten by Saige
Washington, D.C. – On Sept. 7, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and related agencies Appropriations Bill.
Chairman Daniel Inouye of Hawaii opened the mark-up of the Bill saying, “The first order of business today is to approve the subcommittee allocations, dividing up the overall allocation of $1.043 trillion in discretionary spending.”
“In total, the allocation is $6.8 billion below the level approved for fiscal year 2011 and $79.2 billion below the President’s request,” said Inouye.
For the agriculture subcommittee, discretionary spending totals $19.78 billion, $1.75 billion of which represents security spending, including Public law 480 and the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program. The remaining $18.03 billion is accounted for in non-security spending, which was reduced by $192 million this year.
The 2012 Agriculture, Rural Development and FDA Appropriations Bill also includes $266 million for natural disaster responses.
“We recognize that additional funds may be required to cover damages which have not yet been estimated based on recent flooding in the Midwest, the Northeast, and the South,” said Inouye. “Accordingly, the amounts could be adjusted as the affected bills continue to move through the legislative process if and when additional cost estimates are confirmed.”
According to a recent press release from the Committee on Appropriations, the bill has reductions below FY 2011 for a number of programs. The programs receiving priority were those related to public health and safety and domestic and international nutrition assistance programs.
Of particular interest to the agriculture industry, rural development programs saw cuts of $134 million for Housing and Community Program, $9 million for Business Programs and $40 million in Rural Utilities Programs.
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan program was cut by $57 million, leaving $404 million, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service sustained reduction of $43 million. The Watershed Rehabilitation Program was not slated to receive any funding under the current appropriations bill.
The National Institute on Food and Agriculture and the Agriculture Research Service sustained cuts totaling nearly $39 million.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service funding levels were maintained from 2011 to 2012 at $1.007 billion.
In the domestic nutrition segment of the bill, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) received cuts of $152 million, though these funds will fully fund the program. Lower program participation rates were cited as the reason for a cut.
A cut of $11 million from domestic nutrition programs, including the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. Regardless of the cut, this program is fully funded for current levels of participation.
Programs influencing international nutrition receive additional funding this year, including Foreign food assistance.
Foreign food assistance programs were increased by $62 million for Public Law 480 Title II. This section serves to supply the most vulnerable areas of the world with emergency food assistance. The increases are provided to reflect increased famine in Africa.
The McGovern-Dole Program, also funded under this section received an increase of $11 million to reach a level of $199 million. This program funds school meals to the poorest children in the world.
The FDA received an increase $50 million and was the only non-security agency to receive increased funding. The funding for the FDA does not include dollars raised through user fees. The increase provided to the FDA was cited by the Senate Appropriations Committee as to begin implementation of the recently passed Food Safety Modernization Act.
Other cuts included in the bill were $60 million in cuts to salaries and expenses for rural development and the Farm Service Agency.
“These cuts are real and difficult to implement, but that is the will of the Congress and the charter of this Committee,” said Inouye.
In light of the fast-approaching end to FY 2011, the Senate Appropriations Committee must pass all appropriations bills by the end of the month.
The Agriculture Appro- priations Bill, along with Energy and Water and Homeland Security Appropriations Bills were approved on Sept. 7, along with 302b Allocations.