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Obama’s USDA budget to shrink $3 billion in 2012

DANIEL LOOKER Updated: 02/15/2011 @ 8:09am Business Editor

The Obama Administration’s proposed budget for the 2012 fiscal year that starts next October would fall by about $3 billion from the Administration’s 2011 request to Congress. The 2012 total spending would fall to $145 billion, according to documents released Monday by the White House and the USDA.

Much of the USDA’s budget consists of mandatory entitlement programs, with the lion’s share of that going to what used to be called food stamps as well as a smaller portion to farm commodity programs. The discretionary part of the department’s budget that can be changed more easily from year to year is smaller, about $24 billion in 2012, if Congress decides to accept all of the proposals.

That’s even more doubtful than usual in a year when the House and Senate are still struggling to agree on spending for 2011. Congress’ continuing resolution that has kept the federal government going at last year’s levels expires on March 4 and last week the House Appropriations Committee proposed much steeper cuts in USDA spending for the rest of this year.

In Monday’s Administration budget, USDA proposes cutting discretionary spending by about $2 billion and expects mandatory spending to fall by about $1 billion, mainly because it expects to make lower crop insurance payments.

Some conservation-oriented groups criticized the Administration’s cutback in the growth in conservation spending originally authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill.

USDA plans to target some conservation programs such as EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) to what it calls “high priority areas.”  Most conservation programs, including EQIP, appear to grow from this year to 2012, but it would be more slowly than Congress intended in 2008.

“The President’s FY 2012 budget calls for deep cuts to farm bill mandatory spending for farm conservation with over $1 billion in permanent rescissions,” Ferd Hoefner of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said in a statement. “As in their FY 2011 budget request, the big three programs targeted for reductions are the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).”

That billion dollar cut is roughly how much conservation programs would lose over the next five years, he told Agriculture.com. And in the Conservation Stewardship Program, USDA is cutting the acreage accepted into the program from almost 13 million acres a year to 12 million.

Hoefner argues that kind of change in the farm bill should be made when Congress’s agriculture committees write the next farm bill, not in the appropriations process.

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Save Ag Spending 02/16/2011 @ 8:58am Food is part of national security. I find it odd that the Gov doesn't promote farm ownership and production but manages to squander untold billions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let's see who gets elected when people in the US start spending 50% of income on food like in other countries. Also, the Farm Program income cap on farmer income should not include income from land sales - which farmers may use to subsidize a poor crop year or improve on-farm storage. But, since it does, I believe that many more farmers will go out of business when they experience crop failure - especially w these high crop prices. That will lead to bigger and better managed farms leading to few farmers and higher food prices not just in US but in world promoting instability and political unrest. Many farms will be owned by speculators with no thought about long-term consequences of agronomic decisions. Politicians in general, don't realize that there is actual risk in growing crops - they think they can control everything. So, take away the subsidies because a farmer needed to sell land this year. I don't really care - because I will be ready to buy when prices drop; and there won't be commodity price lowering then, because China and the world still needs to eat. It will be somewhat refreshing not to have Uncle Sam breathing down our throats for a few dollars of spending money. Farmer income of $750,000 is nothing when it comes to buying imputs or surviving crop failure. Finally USDA doesn't control our income based on manipulative and inaccurate "crop reports" and "subsidies" because its a world market. Get out of our way, USDA - here we come!!!!!!!!!!

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