House targets food programs, food safety for cuts

by Jay Sjerven
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WASHINGTON — An agriculture appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012 being marked up by a House panel would make cuts to certain domestic and international food assistance programs and pare resources available to food safety agencies and futures markets regulators.

The House Committee on Appropriation’s subcommittee on agriculture, rural development, the Food and Drug Administration and related agencies, proposed an agriculture appropriations bill for fiscal 2012 totaling $17.2 billion in discretionary funding, a cut of more than $2.6 billion from the fiscal 2011 level authorized under the continuing resolution and more than $5 billion less than what President Barack Obama requested for the programs in his fiscal 2012 budget.

Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia, the subcommittee’s chairman, said, “We have taken spending to below pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels while ensuring the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and other agencies are provided the necessary resources to fulfill their duties. Our members have worked to root out waste and duplication and, where they have strayed from their core mission, we rein in agencies so they may better focus on the responsibilities for which they are intended.”

The subcommittee’s proposal would fund the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program in fiscal 2012 at $5,901,250,000, a level that would be $832,777,000, or 12%, lower than funding of $6,734,027,000 in fiscal 2011 and $1,408,850,000, or 19%, lower than President Obama’s request for fiscal 2012 at $7,390,100,000.

The subcommittee leadership said, “While this a reduction of $832 million from the last year, the bill allows the secretary to utilize fiscal year 2011 carryover funds, $125 million in contingency funds and other funding options currently authorized in law to allow participants to continue to receive the benefits for which they qualify.”
The subcommittee’s bill would provide $139 million in funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, a level that was $19 million less than was appropriated for fiscal 2011 and $16 million less than what the president requested in his budget proposal.

Mandatory domestic food and nutrition programs fared better. The subcommittee proposed funding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program at $71,173,308,000, which would be up $5,966,518,000, or 9%, from the current year but down $2 billion, or 3%, from the president’s request. Child nutrition programs (the school lunch and breakfast programs) would be funded at $18,770,571,000, up $1,450,590,000, or 8%, from $17,319,981,000 in the current year and equal to the president’s request for fiscal 2012.

The subcommittee proposed funding U.S. food donations abroad under the Food for Peace program (P.L.480 Title II) in fiscal 2012 at $1,040,198,000, down $456,802,000, or 31%, from $1,497,000,000 in fiscal 2011 and down $643,302,000, or 38%, from the president’s request for fiscal 2012 at $1,683,500,000.

The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program would be funded at $180 million in fiscal 2012, down $19,101,000, or 10%, from $199,101,000 in the current year and down $20,500,000, or 10%, from the President’s request for $200,500,000.

The subcommittee proposed Congress provide the F.D.A. $2,172,239,000, in funding in fiscal 2012, down $284,762,000, or 12%, from $2,457,001,000 in the current year and down $571,726,000, or 21%, from the president’s request for fiscal 2012 at $2,743,965,000.

The subcommittee proposed appropriating $171,930,000 for C.F.T.C. operations in the upcoming year, which represented a 43% reduction from the president’s request for 2012 at $308 million.

Representative Norman Dicks of Washington, the ranking Democratic member of appropriations committee, said, “This bill slashes funding for W.I.C. and the C.S.F.P., leaving more people to fend for themselves during the worst recession since the Great Depression. Our economy is showing positive signs of improvement, but with unemployment still hovering around 9%, it’s certainly not the time to be pulling the rug out from underneath folks who can least afford it.”

Mr. Dicks pointed out the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said at the level of funding proposed by the subcommittee, W.I.C. would have to turn away 325,000 to 475,000 eligible low-income and children next year.
Mr. Dicks also criticized the subcommittee leadership’s approach to food safety.

“The cut to F.D.A. is a perfect example of Republicans’ commitment to short-sighted budgeting,” he said. “In the aftermath of several nationwide recalls, Democrats in Congress passed a food safety bill that ramped up activities at the F.D.A. This bill actually moves us backward in protecting our food supply and medical products. It is 12% below the current level and 21% below what the president requested.”

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