Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Remarks at House Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing Point to Possible Cuts to NRCS Discretionary Conservation Programs

On April 5, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies held a hearing on the proposed Fiscal Year 2012 USDA budget related to natural resources and the environment.  Statements made during and following the hearing by some members of the subpanel painted a picture of likely cuts to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) discretionary conservation programs in next year's appropriation measure (the Subcommittee's April 5 hearing summary web page is here).

While noting in his opening statement at the hearing that his "subcommittee does not control the mandatory farm bill conservation program spending," subcommittee Chair Jack Kingston (R-GA-1) told reporters afterward that "anywhere President Obama wants to reduce the budget, Republicans are almost automatically going to agree," stressing that "the President’s budget request proposes $898 million for NRCS operations for fiscal year 2012. This is a decrease of about $110 million from fiscal year 2010 due to the proposed cancellation of three programs."  The three programs that Kingston was referring to are the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations, Watershed Rehabilitation Program and Resource Conservation and Development (see page 71 of the USDA's 2012 Budget Summary and Annual Performance Plan). 

Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-4) also indicated to USDA officials during the hearing that he will probably go along with Obama's proposed cuts to farm conservation programs, noting that "In the past, you would propose (cuts) with a wink and a nod, knowing Congress is probably not going to take this.  In the current situation, we're probably going to take everything you're proposing, so you should be realistic."  Latham stressed that Congress is now working within "a whole different dynamic."

Not all subcommittee Republicans agreed with the approach of going along with the President's proposed cuts, however.  Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY-AL) agreed with fellow-panel member Rep. Rosa DeLauro's (D-CT-3) contention that the cuts "would create a big hole in our conservation efforts . . . may be extreme . . . (and that it would be) unfair to single out the conservation title alone."  Lummis stated that she is "a tight-fisted, tough cookie and rarely would I say I would like to sit next to Ms. DeLauro, but I would like to on this."

No comments:

Post a Comment