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House Panel Foregoes Big Trump Cuts in Crop Insurance

With the big budget battle in another arena, House appropriators proposed steady-as-you-go funding for the USDA and FDA in the fiscal year that begins on October 1. President Trump’s proposals to cut food stamps by 25% and crop insurance by 36% are just part of larger budget negotiations in which the Republican majority is reportedly seeking significant savings from farm bill programs and the social safety net.

Ahead of a vote scheduled for today, the House Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture proposed a $144.9 billion USDA-FDA funding bill, including $73.6 billion for food stamps, $24.3 billion for school meals and other child nutrition programs, and $6.16 billion for the so-called WIC program. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank, said the funding would allow full participation in the programs. While food stamps would get $4.9 billion less this year, that reflected “declining enrollment and a decrease in food costs,” said the Appropriations Committee.

The appropriations bill is ordinarily a powerful signal of congressional sentiment, but it could be overshadowed by the larger budget pact. The House Budget Committee could direct the Agriculture Committee, like other committees that oversee mandatory spending programs, to revise its entitlement programs to achieve long-term savings. The Trump plan would restrict eligibility for food stamps and require states to pay 20% of the program’s benefits. For the federally subsidized crop insurance program, he would reduce the share of the premium paid by the government and refuse to subsidize premiums for policies that include the harvest price option, a popular provision.

The 108-page appropriations draft leaves crop insurance alone and ignores the administration’s proposals for cuts in two popular conservation programs, the Conservation Stewardship Program for working lands and the cost-sharing Environmental Quality Incentives Program. It also proposes $1.8 billion for food aid and export promotion, including $1.4 billion for the Food for Peace Program. The White House wants to eliminate funding for Food for Peace and for a program that provides a meal a day to schoolchildren in developing countries.

Some rural development initiatives would be cut. Trump proposed the elimination of 40 rural economic development programs and a 20% cut in funding.

The funding bill includes familiar provisions that allow schools to sell flavored low-fat milk, hold sodium standards at current levels for school meals, and exempt schools from requirements that they use whole grains if doing so would be too burdensome. The 2010 Child Nutrition Law requires that schools serve more fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains while cutting back on salt, sugar, and fat.

For a webcast of the subcommittee hearing, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. EDT, click here.

FERN’s Ag Insider. Produced by FERN
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