WASHINGTON, July 9, 2017 – House Republicans return from their Fourth of July recess looking to move a fiscal 2018 budget blueprint that could pave the way for tax reform while likely requiring some reduction in spending on food stamps.
House Budget Chairman Diane Black, R-Tenn., say she hopes to bring out a budget resolution this week that would call for cutting mandatory spending programs by 1 percent.
House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said prior to the week-long recess that he had reached agreement with her on a cut for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program but declined to reveal the number. Black hasn’t disclosed the number either.
Conaway indicated he was satisfied with the number, suggesting it wouldn’t be large enough to make it politically impossible for him to move a new farm bill. However, it still isn’t clear that Black can finalize an overall agreement on the budget blueprint that can satisfy the most conservative and moderate members of the GOP caucus.
Congressional Republicans must pass a budget resolution before they can move forward with using the budget reconciliation process to enact tax reform. Reconciliation bills can pass the Senate with a simple majority vote, not the 60-vote majority required for other legislation.
Black had been pushing for at least $200 billion in total cuts to mandatory spending programs, excluding Medicare and Social Security. Last week, she called for a 1 percent cut in mandatory programs. “Guys, it’s one penny on the dollar. If we can’t find a way to cut one penny on the dollar then shame on us,” she said.
Total mandatory spending programs are expected to cost $37 trillion over the next decade, with $23 trillion of that going to Social Security and Medicare, according to the Congressional Budget Office. SNAP is projected to cost $679 billion over the next decade, or less than 2 percent of total mandatory spending. Other farm bill programs will account for $143 billion.
Meanwhile, congressional appropriators are going forward with writing their fiscal 2018 spending bills prior to passage of the budget resolution, which sets spending limits for non-mandatory programs, those whose spending levels are set annually by Congress.
The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday will debate its fiscal 2018 agriculture spending bill, which funds the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
The bill rejects most of President Trump’s proposed cuts in USDA, including proposals to eliminate or gut spending for rural development and international food aid, but the measure would still cut total discretionary spending for the three agencies by $876 million to $20 billion. But Democrats say the bill underfunds FDA’s food safety responsibilities. The policy provisions in the bill include one that would bar USDA from purchasing Chinese processed chicken for school lunches.
Later on Wednesday, the House Interior-Environment subcommittee will bring out its spending bill for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Forest Service and the Interior Department.
Also on Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will go to Atlanta to address the School Nutrition Association. The group, which represents school nutrition directors, had a rough relationship with Perdue’s predecessor, Tom Vilsack, over their resistance to some of the new nutrition standards implemented under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
In one of his first acts as secretary, Perdue put on hold regulations that would reduce sodium and increase whole grains in schools, and he lifted restrictions to allow schools to serve flavored, 1 percent milk instead of the non-fat that is now required.
Also this week, the House and Senate Agriculture committees will put a focus on fruit and vegetable growers and on organic agriculture as the panels continue to prepare for the new farm bill. The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on technology and innovation in specialty crops on Wednesday.
"Specialty crop production is a pivotal and growing sector of our agriculture industry,” said Conaway. “As we look at the farm bill through the lens of the current farm economy, innovation and technology will remain essential for farmers and ranchers to continue producing more food and fiber with fewer resources.”
The Senate Agriculture Committee has a hearing Thursday on opportunities in global as well local markets for specialty crops and organic products.
Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, July 10
4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, July 11
All day - 20th Annual Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO and Forum, 2103 Rayburn.
Wednesday, July 12
9 a.m. - Information Technology and Innovation forum, “Genetic Engineering: The Future of Agriculture and Public Health,” National Press Club.
10 a.m. - House Agriculture Committee hearing, “The Next Farm Bill: Technology & Innovation in Specialty Crops,” 1300 Longworth.
10:30 a.m. - House Appropriations Committee markup of the fiscal 2018 Agriculture spending bill, 2359 Rayburn.
3 p.m. - House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee markup of fiscal 2018 spending bill, 2007 Rayburn.
Thursday, July 13
8:30 a.m. - USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
10 a.m. - House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “The Future of Farming: Technological Innovations, Opportunities, and Challenges for Producers,” 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. - Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, “Opportunities in Global and Local Markets, Specialty Crops, and Organics: Perspectives for the 2018 Farm Bill,” 328A Russell.
Friday, July 14
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