The United States Department of Agriculture’s FY ’15 budget outlay totals $146 billion with approximately $23 billion in discretionary spending, and $123 billion in mandatory spending. This is an 8% cut from FY ’14. The spending areas would include 76% for nutrition; 11% for farm and commodity programs; 8% for conservation and nutrition; and 5% for other areas (including rural development, food safety, research, etc.). Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the budget proposal achieves, “reform and results for the American taxpayer; fosters opportunity for the men and women living, working and raising families in rural America; and supports innovation through strategic, future-focused investments.”
Key items in USDA’s budget include:
- Crop Insurance: Reform crop insurance subsidies to companies and farmers to make the program less costly to taxpayers and maintain a safety net for farmers. Estimated savings of $14 billion over 10 years.
- Field Offices: Close and consolidate 250 Farm Service Agency (FSA) field offices. Currently there are 31 offices without full-time staff.
- Food Safety: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) would be funded at $1.001 billion for meat, poultry, and egg products inspection. This is a savings of $9.3 million as a result of implementation of the new poultry slaughter inspection program.
- Food Safety User Fees: The budget proposes a new performance-based user fee, which will be charged to plants that have sample failures or require additional inspection activities due to regulatory non-compliance. This was proposed in last year’s budget.
- Trade Promotion: The trade promotion programs are fully funded: the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) at $34.5 million and the Market Access Program (MAP) at $200 million.
- Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS): $182.5 million for FAS, which is an increase of $4.7 million over FY ’14.
- Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA): $44 million, which is an increase of $3.76 million over last year.
- Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI): Provides $325 million for AFRI competitive research program.
- Multidisciplinary Institutes: Provides $75 million to support three multidisciplinary institutes, with one dedicated to advanced biobased manufacturing, another to focus on anti-microbial resistance research, and the third on crop science and pollinator health.
- Pollinator Health: Provides $50 million additional funding for research through public-private grants, strengthen pollinator habitat in core areas, double the number of acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that are dedicated to pollinator health, and increase funding for surveys to determine the impacts on pollinator losses.
The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations subcommittees have started hearings on USDA’s proposed budget. Secretary Vilsack will testify before the House subcommittee on March 14, and the Senate subcommittee on March 26.
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