White House proposes cuts to 2015 USDA budget

Source: Written by CHRISTOPHER DOERING, Gannett Washington Bureau • Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014


WASHINGTON — The White House proposed Tuesday nearly $24 billion in discretionary spending for the U.S. Agriculture Department in its fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, a decline of close to $2.5 billion from the prior year.

The USDA said overall it requested $140 billion in funding, but about 83 percent of that comes from mandatory programs required by law such as crop insurance and food stamps. The department said the funds it requested for fiscal year 2015, which starts on Oct. 1, would be used for food safety, management of national forests and soil and water conservation assistance, among other programs.

The USDA would cut its crop insurance program to $8.6 billion, a decline of nearly 15 percent from the prior year. The drop is expected to meet stiff resistance in Congress, where a recently completed $500 billion farm bill increased the amount of crop insurance programs available to farmers.

The federal crop insurance program traditionally has been profitable for the companies that administer it, in large part because the government pays about 60 percent of the premiums and covers about $1 billion in administrative costs for the insurers each year. Farmers are responsible for the remaining 40 percent in premiums.

The 2015 White House budget proposal also included the reinstatements of several expired tax provisions, such as credits for cellulosic biofuel and wind energy production.

It did not include the biodiesel tax credit, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

“Faced with the enduring effects of the petroleum industry’s continuous Century of Subsidies, reinstating the biodiesel tax incentive is a vital part of leveling the energy playing field and allowing true consumer fuel choice,” said Grant Menke, policy director with the association.