Obama budget: Changes to crop insurance, food aid, research

Obama's $3.77 trillion fiscal year 2014 budget proposal is almost certain not to be adopted in whole, as few administration budgets are.

President Obama’s FY2014 budget proposal was submitted to Congress, being met with open opposition from the Republican side of the aisle for proposed spending and revenue increases and more muted grumbling from Democrats for proposed trims in cost-of-living increases to entitlement programs such as Medicare. The $3.77 trillion fiscal year 2014 budget proposal is almost certain not to be adopted in whole, as few administration budgets are. 

Both the House and the Senate have adopted their own radically different versions of their non-binding budget resolutions. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) put out a rare joint statement indicating they intend to move the budget process forward in Congress, saying, “We recognize the many differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions and the challenge we face in reaching an agreement. We are committed to working to find common ground.  We look forward to continuing the conversation as we move toward a conference committee.”

For agriculture, the president’s budget proposal is a mixed bag. Overall, the Department of Agriculture would receive nearly $22 billion in discretionary funding, a decrease of $1.2 billion over 2012 funding levels. The entire 2014 USDA budget would be $145.8 billion.

Farm Safety Net, Conservation and Energy

Related to farm programs, the document reprises proposals to cut crop insurance support and eliminate direct payments, which officials said would save $37.8 billion over the 10-year budget window. These topics are expected to be central to continued discussions leading toward a new, long-term farm bill. 

For conservation programs, for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding is proposed to be decreased slightly from $1.4 billion to $1.350 billion. In 2012, funding for the program was enacted at $1.373 billion. For the old Conservation Security Program, funding for existing contracts would decline to $134 million, while funding for the new Conservation Stewardship Program would see an increase from $768 million in 2013 to a proposed $989 million in 2014. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) would be funded at approximately $2.1 billion with enrollment of just more than 27 million acres.

The budget also calls for $238 million for the Rural Energy for America Program.


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Food Aid

As expected, the Obama Administration proposal suggests elimination of the Food for Peace (PL-480) program, aiming to shift from a system of shipping U.S. commodities directly to countries in need. The changes would allow up to 45 percent of food aid to be purchased outside the United States and end the practice of selling commodities to fund development assistance, known as monetization.

NAWG and other agriculture groups have spoken out against the proposed changes, which would harm the existing - and very successful - system of food aid, which guarantees quality products for those in need and builds goodwill for the U.S. in countries that are working to improve conditions for their people. Wheat is a significant part of U.S. food aid, accounting for 34.4 percent of all food-aid donations in fiscal year 2011. NAWG and 80 other groups recently wrote Congressional leaders offering strong support for the Food for Peace and other existing food aid programs; a sample of those letters is available at www.wheatworld.org/wp-content/uploads/foodaid-letter-to-senate-ag-fy2014-20130321.pdf.


The Administration’s research proposals contain slight increases in overall funds for both research done by USDA scientists and partnerships with land-grant universities. Researchers and farmers in town this week for the industry’s annual research fly-in were encouraged by this news and urged Members of Congress to support two top-line requests, $1.124 billion for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and $383 million in funding for USDA’s premier competitive grant programs, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).

However, NAWG and state associations are continuing to examine the details of the research proposal and already have developed grave concerns about some of the details. Most significantly, the request appears to zero out funds for the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative (USWBSI), as well as a significant reduction for crop protection work. Wheat stakeholders will continue to assess the potential impact of the president’s ideas on ARS and land-grant research and engage with Members of Congress on top priorities.

The full budget proposals are available online at www.whitehouse.gov/omb/.

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