U.S. budget hearing generates concerns about cuts

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WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Members of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and related agencies on March 1 exchanged views with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack about President Obama's proposed fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget for USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The hearing provided insights about the president's rationale for his budget proposals, as well as a forum to review subcommittee members' concerns about the fiscal blueprint and related federal policies, including the farm bill, conservation, food safety, rural development, domestic nutrition, and food-aid programs.

In his oral remarks, Vilsack said the president has suggested that any budget decision "has to be shared sacrifice and shared opportunity."

The president proposed a $130 billion FY 2012 USDA-FDA budget, a reduction of $3 billion from the FY 2011 annualized temporary spending bill. Of the total, discretionary spending for USDA and FDA programs would be $18.8 billion, $1.3 billion below FY 2011. The decreases would be achieved through spending reductions and terminations, and streamlining operations.

Vilsack also said the budget's proposed legislative changes would target reductions in farm program payments, to save $2.5 billion over 10 years, and that legislation would be forthcoming to reduce premium subsidies for the crop insurance program's catastrophic insurance coverage option, which would save $1.8 billion over 10 years.

USA Rice Federation will work to protect the farm safety net as budget discussions continue and is developing crop insurance products to meet rice producer needs.