WASHINGTON, March 14, 2013 – The Senate Budget Committee released a fiscal year 2014 budget proposal Wednesday that aims to reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion in 10 years and provide a long-term spending guideline for the Agriculture Department.
The proposed 114-page Foundation for Growth: Restoring the Promise of American Opportunity, offered by Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., relies on a mix of spending cuts and new revenue raised by “closing loopholes and ending wasteful spending in the tax code.”
Separately, the House Budget Committee continued work on its FY 2014 budget, and the Senate continued debate on its FY 2013 continuing resolution.
During opening statements at the March 13 release and mark-up of the Senate budget plan, Murray said the bill would achieve $975 billion in deficit reduction through spending cuts and would replace cuts made by the sequestration.
“The highest priority of our budget is to create the conditions for job creation, economic growth, and prosperity built from the middle out, not the top down,” Murray said. “We believe that with an unemployment rate that remains stubbornly high, and a middle class that has seen wages stagnate for far too long, we simply cannot afford any threats to our fragile economy.”
In opposition, ranking member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., came out firing.
“The plan does not include any reform of entitlements, does not promote the bipartisan pro-growth tax reform ideas so much discussed, makes no reforms to the 80-plus welfare and poverty assistance programs that are projected to grow 82 percent, and makes no changes to the new health care law that every day becomes more unsustainable,” Sessions said. “Is it really possible that after four years, the majority has failed to identify any reforms? That all we have is just a tax-and-spend budget that makes no alteration to our dangerous debt course?”
The proposal includes a budget authority of $22.55 billion for the Agriculture Department in FY 2014, including $5.98 billion in discretionary spending and $16.565 in mandatory spending. The proposal sees a $205.24 billion total budget authority mark for USDA spending from fiscal years 2014-2023.
While the proposal did not give specifics on spending levels for each USDA agency, it did lay down some policy provisions.
The proposal stressed that enacting a “strong” five-year farm bill would support many of U.S. rural priorities.
“From preserving a safety net for producers, to expanding economic opportunities in a clean energy economy, to accessing new markets for our domestically produced products, a farm bill authorizes and provides funding for the programs necessary to keep rural America thriving,” the proposal said.
According to a committee summary, the proposal would support “responsible spending reductions in farm programs” and giving the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee the flexibility to write a new five‐year farm bill.
The committee said the proposal would provide savings from reforming agriculture programs, while “ensuring farmers continue to have a strong safety net when natural disasters or hard economic times hit.”
On conservation, the proposal said, “The budget makes important investments in conservation programs that provide cost‐shares to keep our lands open and free of development and deterioration.”
The summary said the proposal would continue support for agricultural research and “encourage crop diversification and results in new crop varieties that will increase our competitiveness in a global marketplace.”
On energy, the proposal would make “smart investments in clean energy programs for agriculture, forestry and bio-based products,” according to the summary.
“From growing feedstocks like algae, grasses and oilseed crops, to bio‐based refineries to produce these alternative fuels, the potential for rural America to contribute to a home‐grown, clean energy economy is nearly boundless,” the proposal said.
The Senate Budget Committee is expected to begin actual work on its budget on March 14 when the committee holds another mark-up to debate amendments and vote on passage. Murray said she expects her bill to be on the Senate floor during the week of March 18.
Meanwhile, the House Budget Committee worked late into the night March 13 with hopes of approving its FY 2014 budget proposal that includes a 10-year $31 billion cut to direct payments and crop insurance. Much of their mark-up was dominated by discussions on health care and taxes.
Also, the Senate continued, in modest, deliberations Wednesday on a $982 billion spending package that would continue funding for federal departments, including the Agriculture Department, through FY 2013. The legislation (H.R. 933) seeks to avoid a government shutdown on March 27. The House approved its continuing resolution on March 6, and a conference appears likely. The Senate is expected to vote on its bill March 14.
To view the Senate budget proposal and text of the legislation, visit: http://budget.senate.gov/democratic/index.cfm/senatebudget
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