President Trump released his proposed $4.8 trillion Fiscal Year 2021 budget that outlines his priorities. It proposes higher spending for defense, NASA and veterans, and steep reductions in foreign aid, the Environmental Protection Agency, corps of engineers and social-safety-net programs.
The proposed budget would increase military spending by 0.3% to $740.5 billion for FY '21. Nondefense spending would be cut by 5% to $590 billion. This is below the level Trump and Congress agreed to as part of a two-year budget deal.
The budget proposes $1 trillion in infrastructure spending of which $25 billion would be designated for rural America. It does not indicate how it would be paid.
The budget proposes an 8% cut in USDA's discretionary spending. It also proposes many of the same cuts to various mandatory programs as in the past. Congress is expected to reject these cuts as it has previously.
The budget proposes:
- Crop insurance: Reduce the average premium subsidy for crop insurance from 62% to 48%. Cap crop insurance companies' underwriting gains at 12%.
- Payment limitations: Income eligibility limit for commodity programs would be lowered from the current $900,000 adjusted gross income to $500,000.
- SNAP: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would be cut $181 billion over 10 years. It proposes increasing the work requirement from age 50 to 65. It also proposes that a portion of SNAP assistance be in the form of "Harvest Boxes" in which food products would be delivered in lieu of cash assistance. Food retailers and consumer groups strongly opposed Harvest Boxes when proposed in the past.
- Eliminate programs: The Conservation Stewardship Program, McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program, Food for Progress, Single-Family Housing Direct Loan Program and others would be eliminated.
- Trade promotion programs: The Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program would be fully funded at $34.5 million and $200 million, respectively.
- Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: Funded at $600 million, an increase of $175 million over FY '20. There would be $100 million dedicated for basic and applied research in artificial intelligence.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin hearings on the proposed budget in the near future.
More port inspectors authorized
The House passed a Senate-passed bill by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) to address the shortage of agriculture inspectors at ports of entry. The legislation authorizes $221 million over three years for Customs and Border Protection to hire 240 new agriculture specialists and 200 new agricultural technicians each year until the shortage is filled. It would allocate funds for 20 canine teams. The bill is to help prevent the introduction of foreign animal diseases, such as African swine fever.
School food waste act introduced
In an effort to reduce food waste in our nation's schools, Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) have introduced the "School Food Recovery Act."
The legislation will provide grants from the USDA to schools to work on food waste reduction programs. Eligible activities would include food waste measurement and reporting, prevention, education and reduction projects.
A recent World Wildlife Fund report found that national food waste in schools is approximately 530,000 tons (excluding milk) per year, costing approximately $1.7 billion.
Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar are Dem frontrunners
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and former mayor Pete Buttigieg are the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination for president after the New Hampshire primary. Sanders won New Hampshire by a much narrower margin than expected. Buttigieg showed strength throughout the state.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) finished strong in third place which will result in voters taking another look at her. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) came in a disappointing fourth place. Former Vice President Joe Biden finished fifth. He is counting on South Carolina to try and give his struggling campaign a boost. Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg is skipping Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, and is focusing on the March 3 Super Tuesday elections which will account for nearly 35% of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention.