WASHINGTON, Sept. 7- The Senate Committee on Appropriations aproved the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill today, at a decrease of $138 million below FY 2011. Conservation programs faced the largest cuts while priorities went to programs directly related to public health and nutrition assistance.
The Committee-approved bill spared domestic nutrition programs, foreign food assistance, research funding and food safety funding from large reductions. The Food and Drug Administration is the only non-security Agency to receive increased funding in this bill. An increase is provided to the Food and Drug Administration to begin implementation of the recently passed Food Safety Modernization Act. The FY 2012 bill provides $2.497 billion for the Food and Drug Administration, as compared to $2.447 billion in FY 2011.
“While most programs are reduced by 5 percent, we have prioritized those programs that encourage job creation, protect the public health, and help maintain the strength of our nation’s agriculture economy,” said Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA & Related Agencies.
“Strong agricultural production and a product desired in the global marketplace is, in part, the result of smart investment in America’s agricultural research infrastructure,” he said. “That is why I am pleased that this bill places significant emphasis on maintaining research programs at our land grant university system and funding competitive research programs such as the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.”
The FY 2012 bill provides $828 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, as compared to $871 million in FY 2011, which does not include funding for the Watershed Rehabilitation Program. The following conservation programs shouldered the largest spending cuts, as determined from the FY 2012 level of funding dedicated in the farm bill or estimated by the Congressional Budget Office:
-The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) received a cut of $35 million from farm bill mandatory funding. In August, the CBO estimated program spending at $844 million, but the committee designated that no more than $809 million should be spent in 2012.
-The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) received a $350 million reduction from the farm bill dedicated funding level of $1.750 billion for FY 2012. No more than $1.4 billion is to be spent on EQIP.
-The Wetlands Reserve Program received a cut of $180 million from its mandatory funding dedicated in the farm bill. No more than 185,800 acres may be enrolled, which cuts the cost to an estimated $437 million from $617 million.
-Farm and Ranchland Protection Program is reduced by $50 million and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is reduced by $35 million.
Cuts are also applied to the Rural Energy for America Program, which was originally designated $70 million in farm bill mandatory funding. The approved bill limits that to $34 million and then appropriates an additional $4.5 million in the rural development section, applying a $31.5 million cut. Also, the FY 2012 bill provides the Farm Service Agency $404 million for farm loan programs, as compared to $461 million in FY 2011.
The FY 2012 provides $6.582 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as compared to $6.734 billion in FY 2011.
“The best that can be said about the Senate Agricultural Appropriations bill's treatment of the 2008 Farm Bill is that it is a good deal better than the House bill,” said Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “However, a $726 million or 12 percent cut to farm bill mandatory conservation programs, on top of a half billion dollar cut in the FY 11 bill, is a testament to how broken Washington is when it comes to budgetary matters.
“Shortchanging the agriculture appropriations allocation such that the funding of important items like feeding programs and food safety requires raiding farm bill direct spending to make up for shortfalls is the type of gaming and double dealing that gives Congress a bad name. Given the Senate Appropriations Committee action today, we hope the new budget Super Committee is paying attention: conservation programs have already been forced to scale back, so any further Farm Bill mandatory spending cuts should come from other titles,” Hoefner said.
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