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Agricultural News

Final Obama Budget Proposal Wants More Money for Feeding Programs and Ag Research While Cutting Crop Insurance Support

Tue, 09 Feb 2016 15:13:19 CST

Final Obama Budget Proposal Wants More Money for Feeding Programs and Ag Research While Cutting Crop Insurance Support  US Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack met with reporters via teleconference about President Obama's final budget as a sitting President, and pointed to several priorities that he hopes that Congress will seriously consider as they work on agency appropriations for Fiscal Year 2017. Those priorities include an increase in Ag Research, an expansion of the Summer Feeding Program, fixing the Fire Budget and giving USDA the authority to expand their presence in Cuba. At the same time, the administration wants to reduce the level of premium subsidies for crop insurance. Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays participated in that USDA Budget Briefing for reporters on Tuesday- and has an audio overview of what Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters- you can hear that by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below. Also posted as an Ag Perspectives Podcast is the overview offered to reporters by Secretary Vilsack, available here.

The Obama budget would boost funding for agricultural research in three areas:

$700 million for grants through USDA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), including $325 million in mandatory funding, double the 2016 funding level. “AFRI-supported research would enable USDA to respond to critical problems and challenges facing the nation such as ensuring an abundant supply of safe water for agricultural uses, responding to climate change, understanding and restoring soil health, and improving food safety and quality.”

$1.2 billion for “in-house research” at the Agricultural Research Service, which includes increases for current and new programs for climate change resilience and vulnerability, pollinator health, agricultural microbiomes, responding to antimicrobial resistance, as well as research on foreign animal diseases, soil health, avian influenza, and for safe and abundant water supplies to support agricultural production.”

$94.5 million for “construction and renovation of key infrastructure investments based on USDA's facility modernization plan.” USDA said the proposal would fund: “modernization of the Foreign Disease - Weed Science Research Laboratory, where scientists research foreign plant pathogens that pose a potential threat to American agriculture.” Improvements also would be made to the Agricultural Research Technology Center, where research is conducted on alternatives to methyl bromide as a soil fumigant for control of soil-borne pests. “The research also develops scientifically based organic crop production practices and methods for weed, insect, and disease control.

Specifically, USDA would receive $61 million, “an increase of about $35 million, to address antimicrobial resistance in pathogens of humans and livestock, and to seek answers to key questions about the relationships among microbes and livestock, the environment, and human health,” the department said.

The summer feeding program would be funded at $12 billion over 10 years. The goal is to “ensure all children have consistent and adequate access to nutritious food year round by proposing a permanent, nationwide expansion of the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) program. This program will provide families with children eligible for free and reduced price school meals access to additional food benefits during the summer.”

The budget would change the way wildland fire management is conducted. It “funds suppression for the most severe fire activity, including large fires that require emergency response, are near urban areas, or are for abnormally active fire seasons, as extraordinary costs that are outside the discretionary budget caps,” USDA said. “The budget recognizes such fires as natural disasters. Importantly, because this funding would not allow the total funding available under existing cap adjustments to grow, it would not increase overall discretionary spending.”

One area that the USDA wants to cut funding in the coming fiscal year comes in the Crop Insurance subsidies. A USDA fact sheet says the budget contains two proposals to reform the crop insurance program: “The first would reduce subsidies for revenue insurance policies that insure the price at the time of harvest. The second would reform prevented planting coverage, including removing optional buy-up coverage. These proposals will modify the structure of the crop insurance program so that it is less costly to the taxpayer, yet still provides a safety net for farmers. Collectively, these proposals are expected to save $18 billion over 10 years,” including $1.26 billion in FY 2017 alone, according to the fact sheet.

Both Chairmen of the Agriculture Committees, Senator Pat Roberts and Congressman Mike Conaway, blasted the ag related parts of the budget- calling them "dead on arrival." Click on the name of each lawmaker to see their complete statements about the proposals from the Administration.


Ron Hays offers an overview of the USDA Budget Briefing with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack
right-click to download mp3


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