Members of Congress released new budget proposals last week, but House and Senate proposals were very different.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says his plan would balance the federal budget in 10 years with huge spending cuts over the next two years, and calls for agriculture spending cuts totaling $31 billion over the next decade.
Last year the House Agriculture Committee passed a new farm bill that CBO originally said would cut spending by $36 billion, with half of the savings coming from cuts to food and nutrition programs. But under Ryan's budget proposal, the food stamp program would be separated from the farm bill and the money would be given to states as block grants. As a result, all $31 billion in savings indicated in the new proposal would come from farm related programs.
Ryan’s budget plan isn’t gospel for the Ag Committee but only provides suggestions, according to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
Lucas said, “We will consider the suggestions contained in Chairman Ryan’s budget as is customary for the Agriculture Committee to consider a variety of viewpoints when crafting comprehensive legislation”.
House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said the Ryan budget would make it tougher to pass a new farm bill.
The Senate Budget Committee is also putting the finishing touches on a budget plan, which would turn off the sequester budget cuts for the next nine years and replace the cuts with one 50-50 mix of tax increases and spending cuts. There were no specifics on the Senate budget’s impact on farm sector spending.
Last week there was a lot of focus on budget plans for the next 10 years, but these budgets don’t solve the problem of funding for the remainder of fiscal 2013. The Senate Appropriations Committee is working on a plan to keep the government running beyond March 27.
The bill would fund the Food Safety and Inspection Service at $1 billion. However, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack says the agency needs another $52 million to avoid furloughing meat inspectors this summer. The CR passed by the House earlier did not deal with the issue of meat inspectors.
The current continuing resolution that funds government operations expires on March 27, which falls during the two-week break Congress will takes beginning March 22.