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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2012 Appropriations

Jim Monke, Coordinator
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

The Agriculture appropriations bill provides funding for all of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except the Forest Service, plus the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, in alternating years, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

The FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations Act (P.L. 112-55, H.R. 2112) was signed by the President on November 18, 2011, after passing both chambers by more than two-thirds majorities. It was the lead division of a three-bill “minibus” appropriation that also included Commerce-Justice- Science and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development appropriations. The minibus was the first FY2012 appropriation to be enacted, and it also included another short-term continuing resolution, through December 16, 2011, for the remaining nine appropriations bills. The Agriculture bill was the vehicle for the minibus since it was the only one of the three subcommittee bills in the minibus to have passed the House.

P.L. 112-55 provides $20.2 billion of discretionary budget authority, including $367 million of conservation-related disaster assistance that was not subject to the regular budgetary caps. After subtracting the disaster funding and adjusting for CFTC jurisdiction, the $19.8 billion of regular discretionary budget authority reflects a $372 million reduction from FY2011 levels (-1.8%). The bill also includes $116.8 billion of mandatory funding for nutrition assistance and farm supports, up +11% from FY2011 due to a 19% increase in nutrition assistance because of the economy.

The FY2012 Agriculture appropriation spreads its reductions in discretionary spending by trimming most agency budgets in the range of 3%-6%, although some programs have greater reductions. The act makes cuts to rural development programs (-$233 million, -8.8%), discretionary agriculture programs (-$209 million, -3%), discretionary nutrition assistance (-$127 million, -1.8%), foreign assistance programs (-$56 million, -2.9%), and conservation programs (-$45 million, -5.1%). The Food and Drug Administration and Commodity Futures Trading Commission each receive small increases in budget authority of about 1.5% to 2%.

The appropriation increases the amount of limitations on mandatory farm bill programs by 27% to $1.2 billion, though rescissions from prior-year appropriations were smaller by about half, at $445 million. These limitations and rescissions, though greater than most years, were less in total than for FY2011. Reliance on these provisions in FY2011 and relatively less use in FY2012 increased the amount of cuts required to agency programs by about $220 million to meet the bill’s discretionary allocation.

The final appropriation is closer to the Senate-passed version from November 1, 2011, than the House-passed version from June 16, 2011. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25, August 2, 2011) set the discretionary limits that were used for the Senate bill and in the conference agreement. The Senate-passed version cut discretionary Agriculture appropriations to $19.8 billion, $2.7 billion more than the House bill in its discretionary total.

The House version of H.R. 2112, passed under the House’s more austere budget resolution, would have cut discretionary Agriculture appropriations to $17.25 billion, a reduction of $2.7 billion from FY2011 levels (-14%), and following a 15% cut in FY2011. Much of the floor debate in the House related to funding reductions for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) feeding program (-11%), food safety (-10%), and international food aid (-31%); preventing USDA payments to Brazil in relation to the U.S. loss in the WTO cotton case; and programs promoting locally produced food (USDA’s “know-your-farmer-know-your-food” initiative).

Date of Report: December 1
4, 2011
Number of Pages:
Order Number: R4196
Price: $29.95

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