Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Look at Some Cuts in the Latest Agreement

Reuters has an article with the somewhat misleading headline, "Budget plan cuts food aid, stewardship programs." Cutting food aid, that sounds scary doesn't it? Here's the lede:
Programs that help poor mothers buy food and that share the cost of land stewardship would be cut under government-wide reductions unveiled on Tuesday.
Really? They are cutting the WIC -- Women, Infants and Children -- program? But when you read further you find that in fact that the so-called cut involves "eliminating reserve funds." That sounds much less scary, and indicates that beneficiaries won't be affected. But what about the other cuts?
Cuts in stewardship spending included $119 million from the Wetlands Reserve, $80 million from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and $39 million from the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
Those sound pretty trivial. Then there are the "other large cuts."
My comments in italics.

-- $433 million from an agriculture credit insurance fund run by the Farm Service Agency. Hard to tell how much that is without knowing the size of the fund. But I'm guessing it could be cut more.

-- $350 million in dairy subsidies. Most agricultural subsidies should be eliminated instead of cut.

-- $194 million from foreign food assistance and related programs, including food aid donations and a global school meals program. The programs were forecast for $1.9 billion this year. We have a fiscal crisis in this country yet we are giving away $1.9 billion in food aid overseas. And we are only going to cut 194 million. This sort of trivial cut is an example of just how unserious our government is about resolving our financial situation.

-- $134 million from the newly inaugurated Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) that encourages farmers to experiment with next-generation crops, such as switchgrass, for making biofuels. The USDA had estimated BCAP outlays at $199 million. Should be completely eliminated. Farmers can decide for themselves what to grow.

-- $126 million from the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, a research agency. Could almost certainly stand to be cut further, or possibly eliminated.

-- $118 million from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which oversees land, water and wildlife stewardship. Not sure about this one.

-- $265 million from rural economic development programs. Entire programs should be eliminated as unaffordable luxuries.

This is a prime example of why many of us are not impressed with these budget cuts. Instead of a serious effort at fiscal reform, we are getting bloated programs pared down a bit. The U.S. government is like a 6 foot, 500 pound man whose target diet goal is to get down to a healthier 475.


  1. You're correct that the cuts are relatively trivial.

    My understanding is this latest episode in brinkmanship was a political fight to defund Planned Parenthood, NPR and other "liberal" programs the religoustards hate rather then a serious effort to cut spending (which would include Military and as pointed out a lot of farm subsidies meant for the mythical family farm but end up lining Wallstreet bankers owned industrial farms)

  2. Yes. The entire process is politicized on both sides. The main difference is that a signficant number of Republicans really do want to make substantial cuts -- except for defense, whereas most Democrats do not want substantial cuts -- except for defense.