Agriculture Committee giveth and OMB taketh away
By Sara Wyant
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
Washington, July 14 - House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) wants to know why funds that his committee authorized for specific USDA programs are being used by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to fund other parts of the federal government.
Peterson says he has asked the Congressional Research Service to investigate exactly which funds have been going where, in a practice called “administrative paygo” that may date back to at least 2005. In addition, he plans to hold a congressional hearing on this subject.
The Minnesota Democrat said he first uncovered what was going on during the debate over the Standard Reinsurance Agreement with the crop insurance companies. In the final agreement, USDA officials said they wanted to cut $6 billion out of the SRA over 10 years and use $4 billion of those funds to pay down the deficit and another $2 billion to bring the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) back up to 32 million acres.
“I said, wait a minute. We have already authorized the CRP at 32 million acres,” Peterson said in an interview Wednesday morning. “But it turns out that OMB had already capped CRP at a lower level and used part of the money for the open access program.
That “Open Fields” program is official known as the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, is a federal grant program designed to encourage best management practices and sportsman access.
“OMB is not supposed to do that. They are undermining the authority of the authorizing committees,” he emphasized.