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A Budget Dream Deferred?

Agriculture appears to have dodged a big spending cut in the 2016 federal spending goals released Tuesday by the House Agriculture Committee, but larger cuts would take place next year, and a proposal to convert nutrition assistance to a “State Flexibility Fund” would be put off until 2021.

Instead of a $20 billion cut over a decade that some had feared, the Budget Resolution proposes $1 billion in cuts. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition had this reaction Tuesday:

“While we continue to oppose reopening the farm bill, we are thankful the draft House budget resolution released today is asking for farm bill cuts of only $1 billion …over the next decade, though it raises the rather obvious question of why bother to go through an agonizing reopening the farm bill via the budget reconciliation process for such a token amount.  Given the proposal is now officially on the table, we intend to support amendments to strike any farm bill reopening, and, should those fail, intend to endorse amendments that support meeting the reconciliation target through farm program subsidy reform.

“Far more onerous than the reconciliation instruction to the Agriculture Committee is the inclusion in the budget resolution of a $44 billion fiscal year 2017 cut to the already low, sequestration-driven budget caps for domestic spending. While more than a year away, if such a cut goes through and traditional allocations are held to, this would mean at least a $1.9 billion (9%) cut to rural and agriculture discretionary spending.  

“Last year, the Agricultural Appropriation bill reopened the farm bill and reduced farm bill funding (primarily the conservation title) in order to make up for the shortfall in the allocation for USDA and FDA discretionary programs, robbing Peter to pay Paul. The draft budget bill introduced today intensifies the likelihood that the farm bill will be under attack once again via backdoor raids in the appropriations process for years to come.”

The Senate’s budget will be released tomorrow and is expected to differ from the House version.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told reporters Tuesday that “I think the Agriculture Committee is going to be asked to save X number of dollars” but he wouldn’t say how much. 

Meanwhile, some conservative critics of the House budget proposal in Washington have pointed out that its effort to increase defense spending by $94 billion uses an Overseas Contingency Operations account that skirts a cap on defense spending that was started by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The Overseas Contingency account was used to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The stated goal of the House proposal is to balance the federal budget within 10 years. 

Democrats in Congress are criticizing the House Budget’s plan to repeal Obamacare, spend less on Medicaid through state block grants, and create vouchers for Medicare beginning in 2024.  

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