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Biden Budget Proposal Includes 16% USDA Funding Increase- Sec. Vilsack Testifies at House Appropriations Committee

Budget: General Background and USDA

Los Angeles Times writer David Lauter reported last week that, “President Biden, saying the U.S. has ‘significantly underinvested in core public services,’ will ask Congress for a 16% boost in annual spending for a range of domestic programs, the White House announced Friday [April 9th].

“The first installment of Biden’s budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 asks for just over $1.5 trillion for so-called discretionary spending — the roughly one-quarter of federal outlays governed by annual appropriations laws. Slightly more than half of the money would go to domestic programs, and the rest to national security.”

The L.A. Times article pointed out that, “Although presidential budgets have largely been ignored in recent years, Biden’s is likely to receive a warmer reception on Capitol Hill, where Democrats control both houses of Congress and share many of the administration’s goals. With a slim majority in the House and an evenly divided Senate, however, many of Biden’s proposals will probably be changed — a likelihood White House officials conceded.”

New York Times writer Jim Tankersley reported last week that, “The proposed $1.52 trillion in spending on discretionary programs would significantly bolster education, health research and fighting climate change. It comes on top of Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package and a separate plan to spend $2.3 trillion on the nation’s infrastructure.

“Mr. Biden’s first spending proposal to Congress showcases his belief that expanding, not shrinking, the federal government is crucial to economic growth and prosperity.”

And Caitlin Emma reported last week at Politico that, “With less than six months left until government funding runs out, lawmakers will use Biden’s request as a guide in deciding how much to send federal agencies in fiscal 2022, which begins Oct. 1.”

With respect to agriculture, Wall Street Journal writer Gabriel T. Rubin reported last week that,

The Agriculture Department would see a 16% funding increase, with significant additional funding for priorities like rural broadband, improving rural water infrastructure and improving forest management to prevent forest fires.

“Experts say thinning dense forests is the most effective short-term tool to address the fires. Most scientific experts also say warmer weather across the West caused by climate change has greatly worsened the fire threat.

“The budget would also allocate more money toward developing agricultural technologies to help farmers boost their output while also pursuing conservation initiatives and sequestering carbon on their land.

Nominal USDA expenditures on food assistance programs, fiscal years 1980–2020. USDA- Economic Research Service- Chart of the Day (April 14, 2021).

“A major part of the Agriculture Department’s budget goes to nutrition programs: food stamps would receive $6.7 billion under Mr. Biden’s request, a $1 billion increase from this year’s enacted level.”

Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack indicated in a statement last week that, “The President’s budget provides the resources to build back better, stronger, and more resilient and equitably than ever before.”

Budget: House Appropriations Hearing

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee heard testimony from Sec. Vilsack regarding the executive branch budget request.

In his opening remarks, Sec. Vilsack noted that, “Today, containing the pandemic, ensuring racial justice and equity, responding to a mounting hunger and nutrition insecurity crisis, rebuilding the rural economy, strengthening and building markets for farmers and producers, and addressing the impacts of climate change are our top priorities.”

DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reported Wednesday that, “In a three-hour, wide-ranging hearing, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday that USDA will end the Farmers to Families Food Box Program established by the Trump administration. However, USDA will continue to distribute the produce and dairy products that became popular with food banks and other beneficiaries.

“A year after USDA started the Farmers to Families Food Boxes, USDA now will shut down the program by the end of May.”

And Reuters writer Christopher Walljasper reported on Wednesday that, “The USDA spent $4 billion on the food box program in 2020 – six times its normal emergency food budget. After reviewing the program, President Joe Biden’s administration has decided not to continue it after May, USDA Communications Director Matt Herrick told Reuters.

“Under newly appointed Secretary Tom Vilsack, the USDA is focused on different hunger initiatives, including expanding food stamp benefits and increasing food purchases through existing government food distribution programs, Herrick said.”

The Reuters article stated that, “USDA’s Herrick said the Biden administration’s assessment of the program exposed problems in how the food aid was delivered.

“‘A lot of rural communities went unserved entirely,’ he said.”

Additional exchanges from Wednesday’s House Appropriations hearing regarding agricultural export markets and China, estate taxes, and synthetic beef are noted below.

Keith Good

Keith Good

Keith Good is the social media manager for the farmdoc project at the University of Illinois. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily FarmPolicy.com News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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