Spending Showdown: Lawmakers defend big cuts to USDA’s proposed budget

A House Ag Subcommittee advanced a controversial spending package for the next fiscal year and Democrats call it a sham. The Republican plan slashes USDA spending by a third, and supporters say while those cuts are big, it targets wasteful spending while keeping critical programs in place.

Representative Andy Harris of Maryland says the bill funds many aspects.

“We simply cannot continue down this path of providing large sums of money without regard to the fiscal future of our nation. For fiscal year 2024, the subcommittee’s discretionary allocation is $17.2 billion, but by redirecting $8.15 billion in unobligated funds from the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act, this bill funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission, with an effective allocation of $25.3 billion, a decrease of only 2% from this fiscal year. This legislation supports critical ag research and plant and animal health programs, invests in rural communities, expands access to broadband, provides nutrition assistance to those in need, and ensures that American consumers have a safe food and drug supply. The legislation continues to invest in the delivery of farm programs, disaster assistance, and crop insurance to the farmers and ranchers by maintaining funding for the Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency. The bill provides a $39 million increase for the food safety and inspection service to fully fund our nation’s frontline inspectors of meat and poultry products.”

Representative Sanford Bishop of Georgia says the bill would return ag to levels not seen in nearly two decades.

“Over the past two decades, our country and the agriculture industry have grown. Yet this bill would return American agriculture funding back to the 2006 levels, with an allocation of $17.1 Billion, nearly $8 billion below last year’s enacted bill. For the past two years, USDA has been working hard to implement policies and making investments that America’s farmers, rural communities, and families have been promised and really counted on us to continue to help rebuild from the pandemic, countless natural disasters, and other challenges outside of our control. This subcommittee has provided the resources in the past to jumpstart these efforts, but the bill today would take away food assistance from women, and children, and make it difficult for them. To consistently take from vulnerable people, from veterans to seniors, and people with health conditions, that would make it difficult for them to consistently work.”

Right now, next year’s funding is estimated at $12 billion below what Secretary Vilsack had requested and half a billion below this year’s levels.