Billions of dollars and thousands of pages: Ag’s share of major spend


The vote on the last day of September to raise the debt ceiling was passed as the spending plan and reconciliation bill are still looming.

The House Budget Committee prepared a nearly 500-page report on the Build Better Act, the spending plan that is expected to cost billions of dollars.

In the agricultural part of the provisions, in the forestry subtitle, billions of dollars are earmarked for the disposal of fuels along the forest-urban interface; vegetation management; trail maintenance, forest protection; and the development of a Civilian Climate Corps.



In the rural development and energy sub-title, funds are described for rural water supply and sanitation programs and subsidies through rural energy savings. In the Urban Research and Agriculture subtitle, $ 545 million is described for USDA’s rural development mission area, as well as research and data collection costs. In addition, funds are earmarked for climate change research, education programs and grants, all related to climate change. There are also grants and scholarships for tribal and other underserved students and funds to cover the costs of urban agriculture studies.

Miscellaneous costs include $ 5 million paid to the Office of the Inspector General of the Ministry of Agriculture for audits, investigations and other surveillance activities.



The committee printout was reviewed by the Agriculture Committee on September 10 and 34 amendments were proposed, all by Republicans. The amendments, including one to cut overall spending under the title by two-thirds, failed on party lines.

FAULTY PROCESS

The Minority, led by Representative Leader Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., Said the bill sidelined the Speaker’s commitment to the House of Agriculture to find common sense solutions for farmers, pastoralists and rural communities,

Representatives called the bill unapproved and short-sighted policies, and the committee’s print review process was fatally flawed, resulting in “a reckless and unnecessary bill that ignores immediate and critical needs. of rural America. As Republican members of this committee, we could not in good faith support such a flawed process or product. “

The $ 3.5 trillion in spending, the minority said, is one of the bill’s deepest problems, including the $ 89.1 billion within the purview of the House Agriculture Committee. .

“This spending follows trillions of dollars in COVID aid as well as hundreds of billions of dollars in deficit spending under the American Rescue Plan Act (PL 117-2), all of which presumably have gone without an ounce. oversight of Congress, ”the notice read. “You would think that if this committee intended to spend $ 89.1 billion – a number comparable to the combined five-year baseline for crop insurance, conservation and commodity programs in as part of the 2018 Farm Bill – there would be a deliberative and public process with stakeholder testimony to inform about its progress Our constituents deserve nothing less.

The minority wrote that the legislation was drafted behind closed doors by Democratic leaders. In addition to being unverified, they claim that “Republican members of this committee only saw the language less than 24 hours before the start of the business meeting, and just seconds before it was delivered. public. Mostly, this happened after we asked the president to engage in a transparent process. However, by not sharing the text with enough time to assess the impacts, the majority thwarted the ability of Republicans, and many Democratic committee members, to participate in the markup. It is the antithesis of transparency. More worrying than not having a meaningful debate on spending and policies is not having the opportunity to debate at all. “

In the minority summary, Thompson wrote that when the text was released, the committee’s instructions were $ 22 billion short under the House budget resolution and the Speaker indicated that an additional $ 28 billion in spending would be added to the bill by the Democratic leadership after the committee completed the markup, a move the minority called a “staggering fault of process.”

“While the majority have touted this package as being tailored to the needs of rural Americans, on two of the most important issues facing farm families – taxes and the farm safety net – this legislation is silent,” Thompson wrote. . “There is not a word in this bill that addresses the devastating consequences of the tax policies proposed by this administration in the Democrats’ broader reconciliation plan.”

FORESTS, CLIMATE AND SNAP

Other concerns under the forestry subtitle include restrictions on commercial fuel reduction projects; restrictions on salvage logging; significant restrictions on restoration projects; and billions of dollars for non-core activities such as the Civilian Climate Corps, the protection of mature forests, the protection of species, the Forest Legacy Program, and the acquisition of urban and community forests.

In the subheading of Research and Urban Agriculture, the Minority criticized the committee’s investments, saying it “completely misses the mark in providing the appropriate resources to ensure that U.S. growers can continue to provide the” supply of the safest, most abundant and affordable food and fiber in history. . Instead of funding the department’s various large-scale research programs, the majority have limited funding to only projects related to climate change research. “

In the subheading miscellaneous, the supplementary nutritional assistance program was discussed. Thompson wrote that the cost of the program more than doubled from $ 37.6 billion in 2008 to nearly $ 80 billion at its peak in 2013. In 2019, the lowest participation numbers were on record. since 2008, with 35.7 million people receiving the benefit totaling $ 60.3 billion from taxpayers. dollars. At the start of the pandemic, 36.8 million people were receiving benefits. However, in June 2021 – the most recent month for which data is available – the number jumped to 42.34 million people. The average benefit per person was $ 121.13 in February 2020, and increased to $ 227.23 in June 2021. There was a slight increase in registrations at the start of 2021, probably due to the exclusion of the unemployment insurance in the event of a pandemic, as indicated in the law of December 2021 on consolidated credits. Total Fiscal 2020 spending for SNAP was $ 79.2 billion, and so far for fiscal 2021, $ 83.6 billion.

Thompson wrote that by failing to expect the productivity of able-bodied, childless SNAP beneficiaries between the ages of 18 and 49, in addition to the job and wage cuts policies, one “fails on Main Street.” According to a USDA study, only 29% of able-bodied, childless adults between the ages of 18 and 49 report earned income.

METHANE EMISSIONS

The 2021 Methane Emissions Reduction Law, S. 645, which was seen as an amendment to the broader committee spending law, garnered viral actions on social media, including from the congressman Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., “Blank Check for Socialism” oped. In his column, Mullin claimed that “this legislation would impose a ‘levy’ on all methane emissions, including in our agricultural industry. We all know that a levy is just a tax and that consumers will pay it. The tax is estimated at $ 6,500 per dairy cow, $ 2,600 per head of cattle and $ 500 per hog each year. It is more than what the animals are worth, it will bankrupt the breeders.

Mullin spokeswoman Meredith Blanford said the figures illustrated the fees if applied to agriculture.

“For now, the text of the bill only specifies the oil and gas industry, but it also refers to the EPA’s GHG (greenhouse gas) inventory and leaves too much room for it. ‘EPA to expand its regulatory reach,’ Blanford said. “However, during the energy and trade hike, Republicans proposed an amendment that would make it clear that this methane tax would not apply to agriculture and Democrats rejected it. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher , D-Texas, even pointed out in his remarks that the agriculture industry is a larger source of methane emissions compared to oil and gas.

The numbers shown in Mullins’ column are from an analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation. At the rate of $ 1,500 per metric ton of methane, as proposed, the overall impact on agriculture would be approximately $ 414.45 billion.

The text of the bill, however, establishes “a fee that the EPA must impose and collect from the owner or operator of certain facilities that report methane emissions under Subpart W of the reporting program. greenhouse gases for the oil and natural gas production industry segments “. Agriculture is not mentioned.

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