2012 Ag Appropriations Bill narrowly passes in House
Washington, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012 in a 217-203 vote on June 16.
The Appropriations Bill, known as House Resolution 2112, provides $125.5 billion in both mandatory and discretionary funds for a number of agricultural programs. These funds amount to $7 billion below the presidential request. While discretionary programs were cut by $2.7 billion, or 13.4 percent, mandatory funds increased by $3 billion.
“It increases spending for the human needs that are legitimate for the people in this country by over one-quarter of a billion dollars,” said Representative Cynthia Lummis in debate on the House floor.
Mandatory funding increases represent boosts for Child Nutrition Programs, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Agricultural Marketing Service and Commodity Credit Corporation, offset by a $5 billion cut to the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation.
Child nutrition programs were expanded by $1.5 billion alone. These child nutrition programs provide largely for school lunch programs and include plans to instate new nutrition requirements.
SNAP, commonly known as the food stamps program, saw gains in funding of nearly $6 billion. These funds were allocated under stipulations that efforts be made to decrease fraud within the program. Regardless of the increase, funding levels for SNAP fell short of the 2012 presidential request by $2 billion.
Discretionary programs received the burden of funding cuts in the 2012 Appropriations Bill.
Food and nutrition programs experienced cuts of more than $750 million. The Women, Infants and Children program (WIC), which provides food aid for those women, infants and children younger than five who fall beneath standards for poverty, saw a loss of $685 million, causing controversy in the House.
USDA research funds received reductions of more than $330 million. House Report 112-101 says, despite the cuts, high priority programs will still receive funding, but 10 Agriculture Research Service facilities around the nation will close.
A downsize in funding for APHIS of $73 million will affect the 29 programs involved in controlling and eliminating plant and animal diseases. However, the organization was granted access to emergency funding in the event of threat or outbreak of disease.
Among other program cuts of concern were those to conservation, including the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). CSP saw a $210 million cut, EQIP a $350 million cut, and the NRCS saw a reduction of nearly $100 million.
“This allows NRCS to maintain its core conservation mission and will drive efficiencies to create more farmer-friendly programs,” said Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA), who sponsored the appropriations bill.
Despite the deep cutbacks in a number of programs, farm subsidies remain intact, as does Wildlife Services funding.
The proposed amendment to block farm subsidies to operations earning over $250,000 was stopped by Republicans, as was a separate amendment limiting subsidy payments to $125,000 per person. Current subsidy regulations set income eligibility for subsidies at $1.25 million income per individual.
“We cannot look at programs that are subject to the five-year farm bill, such as subsidies for farmers,” said Lummis on the House floor.
Lummis also fought to block an amendment introduced by Representative John Campbell (R-CA) that proposed an $11 million cut to the USDA Wildlife Services’ livestock protection program.
On the House floor, Lummis argued, “The federal government doesn’t allow people to kill predators that are attacking their livestock.”
She continued, citing U.S. commercial aviation as another beneficiary of Wildlife Services’ livestock protection program funds.
“The government restricts ranchers and farmers in their ability to protect livestock attacked by certain predators. Abolishing the program that provides predator control would have effectively left these predators to their own devices. When wildlife prey on livestock, it puts the livelihoods of our ranchers and farmers at stake. These predators must be dealt with. I am pleased the shared responsibility this program offers between federal Wildlife Services and farmers and ranchers will continue in its balanced approach,” commented Lummis in a June 16 press release.
Other cuts of concern include $337 million from rural economic development programs. Many rural development grants received these reductions, while housing, business, and economic development loans saw increases in funding.
An additional amendment was made to block a $147 million payment to Brazil’s cotton industry. Following Brazil’s complaint to the World Trade Organization about U.S. cotton subsidies, the payment was agreed on in an effort to quell threats by Brazil to raise tariffs on American products. Many predict that stopping this payment may incite a trade war.
Other noteworthy amendments to the 2012 Ag Appropriations bill include amendments prohibiting funds to be used in approving genetically engineered salmon, construction of ethanol blender pumps and storage facilities in gas stations around the nation and Food for Peace funding to North Korea.
Before the 2012 Ag Appropriations bill can be signed by President Obama, the Senate must pass its own version of the bill.
Saige Albert is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.