Budget 2012: USDA
The Obama administration is proposing $23.9 billion in discretionary funding for the Agriculture Department's 2012 budget, a decrease of $3.2 billion, with the biggest cuts coming from direct payments to high-income farmers, rural home loan programs and wetlands conservation programs.
Direct farm payments and subsidies would take one of the biggest hits, with a reduction of more than $1 billion over the next five years. Health advocates supported the proposal, arguing that the subsidies artificially elevate the cost of crops used to produce junk food, while most fruit and vegetable crops receive little or nothing.
"We can take important steps toward curbing childhood obesity by curbing taxpayer subsidies to agribusiness that make a box of Twinkies cheaper than a bag of carrots, " said U.S. PIRG public health advocate Elizabeth Hitchcock.
Conservation programs that affect thousands of acres of both wetlands and farmlands throughout the nation would also be trimmed -- by as much as $1 billion, according to some conservation groups.
"This is the only line of defense against modern industrial agriculture and the effect it has on soil and water," said Donald Carr, spokesman and policy adviser for the Environmental Working Group. "If we want to keep growing our own food we have to protect our soil and water."
Some of Obama's budget cuts tracked with those proposed by Republicans, including a reduction of more than $470,000 in research dollars; down from $2.8 in 2010 million to $2.3 million. Research dollars, however, increased for obesity reduction, food safety, sustainable bioenergy, global food security and climate change.
"Budgets are just a series of tough choices, and this budget is probably one of the toughest we had to face," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The budget also calls for spending increases for the USDA, including $6.5 billion for renewable and clean energy "to spur the creation of high-value jobs, make Americans more energy independent, and drive global competitiveness in the sector."
And, USDA's largest budget item -- feeding programs for low-income Americans -- also is expected to increase from $96.7 billion to $99 billion. Currently, one in four families participates in at least one of the USDA's food programs.
This post has been updated since it was first published.
| February 14, 2011; 12:58 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency, Barack Obama, Economy, The Budget
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