House Budget Cuts Ag $10 Billion

Budget Proposal's Prospects Questionable

The House Budget Committee is scheduled to markup the budget bill on Wednesday. But for that budget to go into effect, it would have to pass the House and be reconciled with a Senate budget bill. (DTN file photo by Nick Scalise)

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., on Tuesday released a fiscal year 2018 budget proposal that calls for a $10 billion cut in programs under the control of the House Agriculture Committee over 10 years. But congressional agricultural leaders raised questions about whether a budget resolution will go into effect and whether it would cut agriculture.

The House Budget Committee is scheduled to markup the budget bill on Wednesday. But for that budget to go into effect, it would have to pass the House and be reconciled with a Senate budget bill.

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., told reporters Tuesday that he and other senators want to maintain the current level of funding for Agriculture programs.

"The president's budget was a starting point," Hoeven said after his subcommittee approved its fiscal year 2018 bill. "Our view is that we've got to strongly support agriculture."

The 2014 farm bill has saved more than $100 billion over 10 years, he added.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, said Black "has one of the hardest jobs in Washington, so I appreciate her efforts to land at a place where we're reducing the size of our debt."

"Decisions like these are always difficult, but as I've said from the beginning, the committee plans to be part of the solution. Many folks are going to have questions about where the proposed $10 billion in reconciliation cuts will come from. We need to see where this process lands with the Senate, and when we have a joint budget resolution, the committee will do its part to help generate any required savings."

If the House Agriculture Committee has to cut $10 billion from its programs, there would be pressure to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation's largest food assistance program.

But House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee Chairman Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., said at the conclusion of a hearing Tuesday, "It has been noted throughout the hearing this morning that the budget resolution released this morning calls for $10 billion in reconciliation reductions from the Agriculture Committee."

"Several folks have offered suggestions in the press over the past few weeks for ways to cut SNAP to achieve those savings. I want to remind everyone that it is up to this committee to decide -- the Agriculture Committee -- how any required savings would be achieved -- not the Budget Committee and not folks who are freelancing in the press.

"And I would also note that we are only required to respond to reconciliation instructions that make it through the Senate and into a conference joint budget resolution," Thompson said. "So for the time being, we are going to keep our eye on the ball, and that means staying focused on the next farm bill."

House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee ranking member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., reacted passionately to the budget proposal at the hearing Tuesday.

"I am really angry at this budget," he said in his opening remarks. "If this is the budget and this is what we will see in the farm bill -- a cut of $10 billion, and I think that may be a floor and not even a ceiling -- I will predict right here and now we will not have a farm bill. I certainly will do everything I can to kill a farm bill that has a $10 billion cut in it."

As a member of both the Budget and Agriculture Committee, as well as the Nutrition Subcommittee, Rep. John Faso, R-N.Y., defended the budget released Tuesday by noting while "the budget does presume $10 billion in reduced spending over 10 years, it's important to note that this program [SNAP] will spend somewhere between $600-$700 billion over that 10-year period."