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Published February 08, 2010, 12:00 AM

Obama rolls out budget plan

WASHINGTON — In his fiscal year 2011 budget, President Obama has proposed $149 billion in budget authority for the Agriculture Department, up from $135 billion in fiscal year 2010, with $146 billion in outlays, up from $142 billion in fiscal year 2010.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Special to Agweek

WASHINGTON — In his fiscal year 2011 budget, President Obama has proposed $149 billion in budget authority for the Agriculture Department, up from $135 billion in fiscal year 2010, with $146 billion in outlays, up from $142 billion in fiscal year 2010.

Those USDA figures combine mandatory nutrition and farm subsidy programs with discretionary spending. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

According to USDA, discretionary outlays would drop from $30 billion in fiscal year 2010 to $29 billion in fiscal year 2011. Most of the increases would be in nutrition programs.

Although first lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are promoting a $1 billion-per-year increase in child nutrition programs including school lunch and the special program women, infants and children known as WIC, the biggest anticipated increase would be in the supplemental nutrition assistance program that used to be known as food stamps.

With the economy still troubled, the budget anticipates the number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program beneficiaries to rise from 40.5 million people in fiscal year 2010 to 43.3 million in fiscal year 2011. The cost of SNAP — the new name for food stamps — would rise from $68.5 billion to $79.9 billion.

On farm programs, USDA would cut crop insurance spending by $8 billion over 10 years and cut subsidies to the largest farmers by $2.4 billion over 10 years.

Together, the cuts add up to almost exactly the amount by which the administration wants to increase child nutrition programs, but Vilsack insisted at a briefing there is no connection between the two.

The president’s budget is only a proposal, and both House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said they had no interest in cutting farm bill programs.

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