Feb 10, 2011
03:07 PMThe Wind Machine
* As the 112th Congress settles into a rhythm of business after the hoopla of new member swearing-ins, the scramble for office space, and President Obama’s State of the Union Address, it is clear that the number one legislative issue is money. Or, the lack thereof. Yesterday the House’s Appropriations Committee released a list of 70 spending cuts to the Continuing Resolution (CR) for this fiscal year. Included within the total proposal for $74 billion were such reductions as $246 million for agricultural research and $220 million for the Food and Drug Administration. Some members want more even reductions, others are calling this level of cuts unwise and destructive to the public good. Of great interest in this high-stakes debate will be the President’s own budget blueprint for the next fiscal year, which is due out early next week. For one example, of interest to our apple, pear, and cherry exporters: will funding for USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP) be maintained by the Administration?
* One of the practical difficulties with reducing the budgets of individual governmental agencies is the often blunt nature of the job. For example, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service is a tremendous asset to our industry’s efforts aimed at resolving commercially important export market access issues and for its support of promotional activities that boost export sales. On the other hand, its work in helping “Fragile Markets” such as Afghanistan and Iraq is not relevant to our efforts. When cuts are made, odds are for across-the-board reductions; not ditching FAS’s work in Afghanistan. If not evenly spread cuts, programs such as MAP will likely be reduced or totally zeroed-out before staff reductions are felt at headquarters. Travel funds, the life-blood of international trade policy work, will be slashed before a marginally important overseas office is shuttered.
* I was in Washington, D.C. last week for the National Council of Agricultural Employers’ annual meeting and will return next week to the capital for a meeting of the United Fresh Produce Association’s Government Relations Council and the annual meeting of the Minor Crop Farmer Alliance. The Northwest Horticultural Council is an active member of NCAE, United, and the MCFA.
POLITICAL FRUIT: “Make no mistake, these cuts are not low-hanging fruit.” Chairman Hal Rodgers as quoted in a press release dated February 9, 2011, issued by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriations.