Hungry kids and the environment hit hard by USDA budget cuts
The House Appropriations Committee has released a detailed list of budget cuts as part of the deal to avoid a government shutdown, and it looks like agriculture and food programs are getting hit pretty hard. The USDA budget will be cut by $2.6 billion, down from the $108 billion the department had been expected to spend this year.
One of the largest cuts comes from nutrition and food programs — in particular WIC, the program for low-income women and children — since, as we know, rising food prices and a struggling economy mean that hunger is a thing of the past. And a good thing too, because Republicans have seen fit to cut nutrition programs by $500 million from 2010 levels (and $855 million less than what Obama wanted for 2011).
And as sustainable agriculture groups had feared, USDA conservation programs crucial to protecting agriculturally marginal and otherwise ecologically sensitive lands have been severely cut (hat tip to Phil Brasher for the heads up) with the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the Conservation Stewardship Program losing a combined total of $238 million. Ouch. On the other hand, Roger Beachy, the GMO-loving head of the USDA’s research arm, the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, will also have to make do with $126 million less. The commodities programs also got hit with the government’s farm credit insurance fund cut by $433 million — although this line item may be one of those cuts that will only become “real” in the event of huge crop failures and the resulting payouts from the insurance fund.
If you’re looking for a silver lining to this darkest of clouds, I point you to this Washington Post article which claims that, despite fears at the FDA, money for implementing the new food safety law was spared from the knife. Apparently, the Republicans could take their denial of Germ Theory only so far. Another silver lining comes to us via Twitter from HuffPo writer Arthur Delaney who was told by analysts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that leftover money from 2010 will ensure that no current WIC recipients will lose benefits. Let’s hope not.
Looking at how this played out, it’s hard not to think that the president should have let the government shut down. If this is winning the future, I can only imagine what losing looks like.