USDA’s proposed FY17 budget includes $126 billion in mandatory funding (commodity programs, crop insurance, conservation, nutrition assistance, and trade) and $25 billion in discretionary spending. Research receives significant gains in the budget. The budget calls for USDA personnel to be stationed in Cuba to assist in expanding trade opportunities for U.S. agriculture. However, the administration is taking another run at cutting crop insurance. Key areas in the budget include:
- Crop Insurance: The budget proposes reducing premium subsidies for revenue policies that have a harvest price option (HPO) and eliminate buy-up coverage for prevented planting insurance. Estimated savings is $18 billion over 10 years. This proposal immediately drew fire from Congressional leaders. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, “As farmers and ranchers are faced with the daily uncertainties of weather and volatile market conditions, the Obama administration has once again chosen to attach America’s agriculture producers and their ability to manage risk.” This proposal is not expected to survive Congress.
- Research receives significant increases for total of $2.9 billion in agricultural research. This includes:
- AFRI: The administration’s budget is proposing $700 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). This would fully fund AFRI at the level Congress authorized for the program in the farm bill. The budget proposal said this will allow USDA to respond to “critical problems and challenges” facing the nation on climate change, soil health, food safety and quality.
- ARS Research: The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) would receive $1.2 billion for “in-house” research. This would include increases for new programs and existing programs for climate change, pollinator health, antimicrobial resistance, foreign animal diseases, soil health, avian influenza, and safe and abundant water supplies to support agricultural production.
- Antimicrobial Resistance: USDA would increase efforts on antimicrobial resistance in pathogens of humans and livestock by $35 million for a total of $61 million.
- Feral Swine: $20 million is included in the budget to continue efforts to eliminate feral swine.
- Cuba Presence: The budget includes funding for USDA employees to be located in Cuba to help cultivate key relationships, gain firsthand knowledge of country’s agricultural challenges and opportunities, and develop program to benefit both countries. This is needed for U.S. agriculture to expand exports and capitalize on opportunities in Cuba.
- Trade Promotion: The budget fully funds the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) at $34.5 million and the Market Access Program (MAP) at $200 million. These are two highly successful programs that are used to expand and maintain agricultural exports.
- Nutrition Assistance Programs:
- SNAP: provides funding for an average monthly participation of 44.5 million individuals in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- School Lunch and School Breakfast: provides funding for 32 million children to be served school lunches and 15 million to be served school breakfast each day.
- WIC: funding for 8.1 million women, infants, and children to receive better nutrition through the Women, Infant, and Children’s Program (WIC).
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack appeared before the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee last Thursday and will appear before the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on March 9 regarding the proposed USDA budget.