WASHINGTON, June 28, 2017 - House appropriators are rejecting President Trump’s proposals to slash spending on rural development, international food aid, research and other key areas of the Agriculture Department’s fiscal 2018 budget.

Rodney Frelinghuysen

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J.

But a draft FY18 appropriations bill for USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission would still require cuts in some programs. The bill would provide a total of $20 billion to the three agencies, $876 million below what they received in 2017.

That total does not include so-called mandatory spending programs, such as commodity subsidies, crop insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, where spending is mandated by the farm bill.

The bill continues policy provisions giving schools relief from whole grain and sodium standards that the Obama administration implemented under authority of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. A third provision would give schools flexibility to serve low-fat, flavored milk.

“The safety and accessibility of our nation’s food and drug supply is of utmost importance to our economy, our quality of life, and – given the great benefit of producing necessities here at home – our national security,” said House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J.

“This bill prioritizes funding on federal programs that support these critical industries and the farmers, ranchers, medical professionals, and many others that form the backbone of our food and drug supply – which is the best in the world.”

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to vote on the bill Wednesday.

Among the bill’s spending provisions:

  • The bill would make no reduction to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program, two farm bill programs that appropriators often cut in order to fund other priorities.
  • The bill provides $2.8 billion for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Trump requested just $993 million for ARS and $1.3 billion for NIFA, including about $350 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, a competitive grants program.
  • The bill would provide $2.6 billion for rural development programs, including level funding of $1.25 billion for rural water and waste program loans, a program Trump sought to eliminate along with the Rural Business-Cooperative Service and single family housing loans.
  • The bill would preserve the nation’s flagship international food aid program, Food for Peace, as well as the McGovern-Dole international school feeding programs. Trump proposed to eliminate both as part of an effort to slash foreign assistance. Food for Peace would get $1.4 billion for grants under the bill, while McGovern-Dole would be funded at $185 million.
  • The legislation would provide $906 million to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, $96 million more than Trump requested but $40 million less than the current funding level.
  • In a rebuff to the CFTC and its acting chairman, Chris Giancarlo, the bill would cut that agency’s budget to $248 million in 2018, down $2 million. Giancarlo had gone around the White House to ask Congress to increase the agency’s budget by $31.5 million to $281.5 million. Giancarlo, Trump’s nominee to become the permanent chairman, says that the agency needs to hire more economists, in part to analyze the impact of high frequency trading

Chris Giancarlo

Chris Giancarlo, CFTC

Greg Fogel, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, was pleased that the bill would spare conservation technical assistance as well as EQIP and CSP.

“These programs help producers increase soil health, protect water quality, and remain viable through persistent drought," he said. "They are also oversubscribed year over year – meaning that USDA routinely turns away qualified farmers because demand for conservation support is so strong.”