It is the talk of the town in Washington, D.C. these days. Budget cuts are on the news networks, in the K-Street lobbyists' offices and on the minds of D.C. cab drivers. But while people like to talk about cuts, it seems it is very difficult for anyone to accept them, when they, themselves, might be affected.
On May 24 the House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies approved a draft budget bill for the 2012 fiscal year. It would cut $17.2 billion in discretionary funding, which is $2.6 billion less funding when compared to last year. It is over $5 billion less than President Obama's budget request for these programs.
"While making smart yet significant cuts to save taxpayer dollars, the Agriculture Appropriations bill for next year also funds several important and necessary government programs, including agriculture research, rural development, and safety-net food and nutrition programs," said House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (Ky-5th), a Republican. "As is the goal of all our appropriations bills this year, this legislation reflects hard decisions to cut lower priority programs, reduce spending in programs that can be scaled back, and target funds where they are needed most so that our nation continues on the path to fiscal recovery."
Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston, a Republican from Georgia's First District also commented on the bill:
"America is at a crossroads," Kingston said. "For every dollar the federal government spends, 42 cents is borrowed. The gross national debt is now 97% of GDP (gross domestic product) and we are rapidly becoming the next Greece, Spain, or Portugal. Internationally, this weakens our standing as a global leader and our lenders such as China may seek to restructure our debt if we don't take care of it ourselves. Domestically, it hurts job creation, smothers the private sector and erodes some of our basic personal freedoms.
"For our part, the Agriculture Subcommittee has sought to begin making some of the tough choices necessary to right the ship," Kingston added. "We have taken spending to below pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels while ensuring USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), FDA (the Food and Drug Administration) CFTC (Commodity Futures Trading Commission) and other agencies are provided the necessary resources to fulfill their duties. Our members have worked to root out waste and duplication and, where they have strayed from their core mission, we rein in agencies so they may better focus on the responsibilities for which they are intended. In doing so, we balance the urgent need for fiscal restraint with the necessity of a safe and abundant supply of food and life-saving medications."
But in spite of Kingston's assurances, critics quickly assailed the draft legislation. Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of the advocacy group Food and Water Watch, said in a press release that the draft "undermines the federal government's ability to protect consumers from unsafe food. It would keep independent farmers and ranchers under the thumb of corporate meatpacker and would fail to protect hungry people around the world from Wall Street speculation that puts food out of reach for millions."
Hauter noted the subcommittee bill cuts the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service by 3.6%. She also noted the bill would affect proposed measures aimed at protecting livestock producers from large and abusive meatpackers and would cut funding for oversight of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Read more of Hauter's comments by visiting http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/news/ and selecting the link entitled "House Subcommittee Budget Bill Would Hurt Consumers, Producers."