Biden releases 2024 budget request, including USDA
|President Biden on March 9, released a 2024 budget request to Congress that would increase the Agriculture Department discretionary budget to $32.6 billion, a $4.7 billion or 14.4 percent over the 2023 enacted level, but would result in an overall decrease in USDA spending due to reduced benefits and participation levels in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.|
For the Agriculture Department, the budget says “The 2024 request for mandatory programs is $181.7 billion, a $32.8 billion decrease from 2023 enacted levels. USDA is requesting a total of $214.4 billion in 2024.”Jonathan Rapp, the USDA budget director, said the total expected USDA spending for fiscal year 2023 is $242 billion.
|In a call to reporters, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the decrease is due to the end of the pandemic-related increase in SNAP benefits and an expected decrease in the number of program participants as the economy improves.|
Rapp said SNAP participation is expected to decline by about 1.2 million people.
Mandatory programs provide services required by law but are not funded through annual appropriations acts. Mandatory outlays include crop insurance, most nutrition assistance programs, farm commodity and trade programs, and a number of conservation programs.
The remaining $37.5 billion, or 16.4%, of outlays are for discretionary programs such as: the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, food safety, rural development loans and grants, research and education, soil and water conservation technical assistance, animal and plant health, management of national forests, wildland firefighting, other Forest Service activities, and domestic and international marketing assistance.
Biden’s government-wide budget request is $6.8 trillion, and includes increased spending on the military and a wide range of new social programs while also reducing future budget deficits, The New York Times reported in an analysis.
The budget is only a request to Congress and a signal of what the Biden administration would like Congress to pass.
In one way or another, Congress always declares the president’s overall budget dead on arrival, but some elements are likely to become law.
|Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., the ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a news release, “President Biden’s budget request is just more of the same big government policies that have weakened the U.S. economy and led to historic levels of inflation for American consumers.”|
“Our nation needs to get its fiscal house in order, but we aren’t going to get there through higher taxes on hardworking Americans, Green New Deal policies or more spending that further expands the federal government,” Hoeven said. “The president’s proposals will hurt job creation, drive inflation even higher and undermine our nation’s energy security.”
“Instead, we need to find savings in the budget and advance pro-growth policies, like tax and regulatory relief, to strengthen our economy.
“We need to empower U.S. energy producers to develop our abundant taxpayer-owned energy resources, including our vast oil, gas and coal reserves. Doing so will increase revenues through a growing economy, enabling us to reduce the deficit and invest in important priorities, like defense, border security and public safety.
“That’s how we bring down costs for consumers, while tackling our debt and enhancing our national security.”
In a call to reporters, Vilsack emphasized not farm programs but programs that would help rural Americans enter the middle class, saying “they reflect the value system of the administration.”
Both Vilsack and Rapp emphasized the importance of a program to help firefighters in the western states. Vilsack noted that the firefighters have had a temporary pay increase for the past two years but that the increase “for men and women who put their lives at risk” will end on Sept. 30.
|Rapp noted that the firefighters, who number 10,000, have been living in substandard conditions and have mental health issues that in some have lead to suicide.|
The proposal, which would cost half a billion dollars, would address salaries, increase their numbers so that they would not be under so much stress, and give them mental health treatment as well as modernizing bunk houses that have been in such bad shape the firefighters have been living in their cars or living in places for which they have had to pay rent.
Vilsack also emphasized the importance of nutrition programs, access to farm loans and a program to end balloon payments for rural people who have borrowed money from USDA to buy homes.
Rapp said there are 87,000 people who do not have clear title to their homes because they have been unable to pay off these unexpected balloon payments.
Vilsack also said that the housing section of the budget would address the large number of rental buildings that have had a certain percentage of units set aside for low income people but are now coming out of the program, which means the owners no longer have to provide units with rental assistance.
He said about 35 buildings have been coming out of the program each year but the number has risen to 80 properties per year.
The budget also includes a proposal to broaden the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) among schools and states, including a statewide, providing a pathway for free school meals for an additional 9 million school children. This proposal is expected to cost $234 million in 2024 and $15 billion over 10 years.
The budget also projects that the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children will expand from 6.3 million low-income women, infants and children in 2022 to 6.5 million in 2024, and that the budget for WIC needs to be $6.3 billion.
Vilsack also noted that the budget includes a $20 million request to “understand the scope” per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, the so-called ”forever chemicals” known as PFAS which are causing problems for farmers around the country.
The budget proposes to make the Cover Crop Incentive Program permanent. The program offers a $5 per acre incentive for farmers to use cover crops, which will benefit the environment and improve climate resilience. The estimated 10-year cost of this proposal is $1 billion.
In a lengthy news release, Vilsack said the USDA budget would:
▪ “Prioritize consistent access to safe nutritious food for all Americans.
▪ “Invest in climate resilience and U.S. agriculture’s ability to continue [to] be part of the climate solution.
▪ “Advance equity and support for underserved communities.
▪ “Create more and better markets for U.S. agricultural products.
▪ “Make USDA a great place to work and reform the Firefighter Workforce.”