Budget deal rejects Trump cuts, omits aid for cotton, dairy
WASHINGTON - A congressional agreement to fund the government for the rest of fiscal 2017 largely rejects President Trump's proposed cuts in food aid, research and other agricultural programs but also fails to provide new farm bill assistance sou...
WASHINGTON - A congressional agreement to fund the government for the rest of fiscal 2017 largely rejects President Trump’s proposed cuts in food aid, research and other agricultural programs but also fails to provide new farm bill assistance sought by cotton and dairy producers.
Negotiations over the cotton and dairy provisions appeared to have foundered in the final days and hours amid a disagreement over the scope of the assistance. Cotton growers were seeking to become become eligible for the Price Loss Coverage program, while dairy producers wanted more help from their Margin Protection Program.
Sources familiar with the budget negotiations told Agri-Pulse that Senate allies of the dairy industry, led by the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, were seeking to provide milk producers about $2 billion over 10 years, using some of the money that House negotiators earmarked for offsetting the PLC payments for cotton.
Instead, an explanatory statement accompanying the 1,665-page spending bill directs the Agriculture Department to prepare a report within 60 days on the "administrative options for financial relief and recommended legislative actions to provide the cotton industry with a viable safety net." USDA also is told to consider providing immediate, direct assistance to dairy producers using the department's existing Commodity Credit Corp. authority. Separately, USDA is urged to allow milk to be covered as a crop under revenue insurance policies.
The budget deal, which would fund the government through Sept. 30, includes increases for animal and plant health, food safety, farm loans and rural development programs in USDA. The agreement would increase the Food and Drug Administration's budget by $39 million, including $35.7 million more for implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission would receive the same amount as in 2016.
The legislation includes several policy provisions that have relatively broad support in Congress, including one extending the ban on slaughter of horses. But the bill excludes more controversial issues, such as prohibiting USDA from finalizing a pending rule that would make it easier for livestock and poultry producers to sue processors in contract disputes.
In a rebuff to the White House, the budget deal requires USDA to at least maintain 2016 funding levels for USDA research programs, According to the explanatory statement, the bill would increase research budgets for cotton ginning, cover crops, corn and small grains genomics, long-term agroecosystems, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, sustainable water use, wheat and sorghum, poultry, the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative, intelligent spray technologies, sage steppe restoration, and a sorghum genetic database.
As for as food aid, the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program, which Trump had proposed to eliminate, would be funded at $201.6 million, the same level as in 2016. Food for Peace, which the White House sought to move to the State Department and cut deeply, would be funded at $1.6 billion.
Another area of the budget Trump sought to cut, rural development, would be increased by $166 million to $2.94 billion.
The legislation woud provide $949 million to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, $51.8 million more than in 2016. The increase includes new funding to fight citrus greening and highly pathogenic avian influenza.
The budget deal seeks to promote acceptance of biotech foods by earmarking $3 million for FDA and USDA to coordinate on consumer outreach on “agricultural biotechnology and biotechnology-derived food products and animal feed.”
Another provision would require USDA to set aside at least 10 percent of rural development spending for counties with at least a 20 percent poverty rate for the last 30 years, a principle known as “10-20-30.”
Elsewhere in the government, the budget deal would trim the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 1 percent to $8.06 billion. EPA’s research and regulatory programs are cut by $52 million from 2016.
Within the Interior Department, the Fish and Wildlife Service would receive a small $11 million increase from 2016 to $1.5 billion. A House Republican summary says the legislation prioritizes funding to reduce the backlog of endangered species delisting decisions. The bill also would extend a ban on any further Endangered Species Act status reviews, determinations and regulations for greater sage grouse.
Trump's requested funding for a border wall didn't get in the agreement, but the deal does boost spending on border security and immigration enforcement. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement budget would be increased by $629 million to $6.8 billion.
Congress must approve the mammoth spending bill by Friday, when a one-week continuing resolution passed last Friday expires. Successive CRs have been funding the government at fiscal 2016 levels.
House Republican and Democratic summaries of the budget deal are available here and here .
This story originally ran at https://www.agri-pulse.com/articles/9202-budget-deal-rejects-trump-cuts .