Basically we know very little at this point. But if you want to know more about how government works or how budgets affect agricultural programs, this post from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a fantastic reference. I learned a lot from reading it – especially about what we don’t know and why!
We have delayed publishing an update on the fiscal year 2011 appropriations and fiscal year 2012 budget bills several times in the past week due to a lack of detailed information emanating from Capitol Hill. Now, with the government shutdown averted just after midnight last night, we understand (from the many emails received!) that readers would like to know what happened on sustainable agriculture priorities. Unfortunately there is not yet much to report with any degree of assurance.
Fiscal Year 2011 Bill
We will likely not be able to provide details on the 2011 appropriations bill until late Monday after the bill is (hopefully) made public. Appropriations staff on Capitol Hill are busy this weekend working on the details of the package announced last night.
From press accounts, the basics of the deal are a $42 billion cut below FY 2010 levels for non-defense spending coupled with a $4 billion increase in defense spending, for a net decrease of approximately $38 billion. Of that $38 billion, $10 billion was already enacted via the two preceding short term Continuing Resolutions over the past five weeks and $2 billion more was enacted last night in the form of a new one-week Continuing Resolution.
No USDA programs were included in the new $2 billion in cuts; those cuts were focused on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.
Agriculture and rural development were already subject to disproportionately high cutbacks in the earlier two short-term Continuing Resolutions.
The new Continuing Resolution passed last night expires next Friday, April 15, at the same time that many people will be racing to the Post Office with their last minute tax return filings. The rest-of-FY 2011 appropriations bill is being drafted now. It will be made public soon, presumably on Monday. The House will vote on the bill first. By House rules, the bill will need to sit for three days before it can be voted on, presumably on Thursday. The Senate will vote later on Thursday or on Friday.
Two issues have been particularly contentious over the last several weeks. First, there has been significant disagreement over the issue of whether the final measure will include cuts to mandatory spending programs in addition to discretionary spending, which is the normal focus of appropriations bills. (Cuts to mandatory programs, such as Social Security, food stamps, or farm subsidies, are known in Hill-speak as “CHIMPS” (changes in mandatory program spending)). Second, it has been uncertain whether the bill would legislate as well as appropriate via provisions known as legislative “riders.”
According to press accounts, the final bill does include substantial CHIMPS, as favored by Senate Democrats and the White House. Nearly $18 billion of the $42 billion in non-defense cuts are reported to be from mandatory spending. Or to put it another way, of the $30 billion remaining to be cut beyond the reductions already made in the short-term Continuing Resolutions, 60 percent will come from mandatory programs. Read more »