Senate Committee Approves 2013 Agriculture Spending Bill
By Fred Hoefner
On Thursday, April 26, while the Senate Agriculture Committee was busy passing their version of the 2012 Farm Bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee was also meeting to approve the Fiscal Year 2013 Agricultural Appropriations bill. The spending bill covers the majority of the functions of USDA as well as the Food and Drug Administration.
We are thrilled to report the bill approved by the Appropriations Committee endorsed the Administration’s proposal to fund for the first time the Sustainable Agriculture Federal-State Matching Grant Program as a new component of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Combined, the Committee bill provides for $22.7 million for SARE, including $3.5 million for the matching grant initiative. The latter was authorized by Congress, along with the rest of SARE, back in 1990, but to date it has never received an appropriation. The Committee’s proposed funding level represents a long overdue 18 percent increase in funding.
We are also glad the Committee endorsed the Administration’s proposal to increase spending for the Value-Added Producer Grants program by $1 million to $15 million. This is still $5 million less than the long-term funding level for the program and $25 million less than the 2002 Farm Bill provided for the program, but at least a modest step back in the right direction.
In the conservation part of the bill, we are delighted the Committee chose to reject the Administration’s proposal to cut a portion of farm bill mandatory funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). We strongly oppose backdoor efforts in the appropriations bill to reduce mandatory farm bill funding for conservation and applaud the Committee for keeping CSP funding intact.
The Committee bill also steered clear of cuts to the Farmland Protection Program, the Wetlands Reserve Program, and several other conservation programs. However, they did propose to cut $350 million out of the farm bill mandatory funding level of $1.75 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the same amount as in FY 11 and FY 12. Also cut was farm bill funding for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, down $12 million from the farm bill level of $85 million, a smaller cut than made in the FY 12 appropriations act.
We are also pleased to report the Senate Committee did not include the legislative rider from the FY 12 appropriations act that acts to prevent USDA from doing its job to ensure fair competition in the livestock and poultry marketplace.
The Committee also:
- includes a big bump up for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, a quasi-competitive research, education and extension grants program, from $264 million currently to $298 million, a 13 percent increase;
- keeps direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loan funds constant at FY 12 levels; NSAC has requested an increase for direct farm ownership loans targeted to beginning farmers and ranchers;
- allows $3 million in remaining 2008 Farm Bill funding for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program to be spent in 2013; we had advocated for additional discretionary funding but none was granted; and
- maintains level funding or very modest increases for a variety of other programs we follow closely including ATTRA, Organic Transitions Research, IPM Regional Centers, Office of Advocacy and Outreach, Local and Regional Food Enterprise Loan Guarantees, State Mediation Grants, Conservation Operations including Technical Assistance, and others.
For more details, see the NSAC Appropriations Chart on our website, which is now up-to-date with Senate Committee action.
For general details on the bill refer to the Committee’s summary.
To read about the big conflict between House and Senate spending levels for 2013, read our earlier post.