House Approps Subcommittee Deeply Cuts Ag Research Funding

May 27, 2011 Bookmark and Share

The House Appropriations Committee’s agriculture subcommittee approved its version of the FY2012 funding bill on Tuesday, cutting more than $2.5 billion – 13 percent – from USDA’s reduced FY2011 allocation.

The most alarming of the cuts was to the research budget, which was cut 13.7 percent from the FY2011 level. If those cuts become law, agriculture research funded by the federal government would be reduced approximately 20 percent, more than $600 million, from the 2010 fiscal year, even as food security becomes more important around the globe.

The budget constraints in USDA’s research work area would prevent funding for many projects important to wheat growers, processors and users. This was not wholly unexpected based on the House budget resolution, so NAWG has been seeking to work through other channels to press the importance of this funding.

This week, NAWG spearheaded a letter to Senate agriculture appropriations leaders urging support for the Obama Administration’s request to increase funding for critical research in the areas of crop protection, crop production and quality.

“With looming population growth and the need to increase global food production, now is not the time to reduce spending on food and agricultural research,” the signatories told Members, adding details of what each budget item would allow.

The letter was signed by NAWG, state associations in 15 states and organizations representing stakeholders in the barley, oat, milling, pasta and baking industries. It is available online at www.wheatworld.org/budget.

Beyond research, other areas were also deeply cut, including food aid, down a whopping 25.7 percent from FY2011; conservation funding, down 11.5 percent; and marketing and regulatory agencies, down 8.6 percent.

The bill would prohibit funding for implementation of a number of programs, including the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and a proposed crop insurance “good performance discount”.

The subcommittee also declined to increase funds for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) despite repeated requests and CFTC’s well-known needs related to implementation of the Dodd-Frank regulatory reform law.

Other priority areas fared better in the mark-up.

Subcommittee Members wisely chose not to take from export market development programs authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill. Both the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program were funded at authorized levels, $200 million and $34.5 million respectively. The wheat industry has also strongly advocated for these programs, which provide cost-share assistance to supplement farmer dollars spent on overseas promotion.

Though an error in a draft document initially showed a nearly 60 percent cut to crop insurance funding, subcommittee leaders later clarified that funding as needed will be available for that crucial portion of the safety net in the coming fiscal year.

As in recent years, the vast majority – nearly 77 percent – of funding in the subcommittee’s jurisdiction would go to discretionary and mandatory nutrition programs.

The marked-up bill now goes to the full Committee for consideration on May 31. That meeting is expected to be webcast at http://appropriations.house.gov.

For their part, Senators this week rejected in procedural votes both the House-passed Republican FY2012 budget resolution and the Obama Administration’s FY2012 budget proposal, as well as two other Republican proposals. The Senate has yet to finalize a budget resolution, and it’s unclear if the chamber will take one up at all.

A summary table from the House subcommittee’s work this week is at http://appropriations.house.gov/_files/52311AgricultureSubMarkUpSummaryTable.pdf.