Two Hearings With Top Admiral at USDA on Agriculture Appropriations
Posted Maret 10, 2011on:
On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Aliment and Drug Administration, and Accompanying Agencies captivated two hearings with top admiral at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
On Tuesday, Secretary of Agronomics Tom Vilsack, forth with Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, Chief Economist Joe Glauber, and USDA Account Director Michael Young, answered questions accompanying to both the President’s budgetary year (FY) 2012 account appeal and the FY 2011 appropriations process. Then, on Wednesday, USDA’s Inspector General testified afore the Subcommittee on a array of issues apropos to incidences of artifice aural USDA programs.
With the Continuing Resolution (CR) set to expire March 18th, the board is exploring the accompaniment of USDA’s spending and how to advance throughout the butt of the 2011 Budgetary Year and into FY 2012.
At the aboriginal hearing, Secretary Vilsack and associates of the Subcommittee discussed a cardinal of issues and programs of affair to NSAC, including article payments, aliment safety, agronomical research, the Attention Reserve Affairs (CRP), and the Supplemental Diet Assistance Affairs (SNAP).
Vilsack and adolescent Iowan Tom Latham (R-IA) sparred over the Administration’s angle to calibration aback the per acreage acquittal absolute on article affairs absolute payments and to abate assets thresholds for acreage subsidy eligibility. Despite protests from Latham, the Secretary did not aback abroad from the proposals.
In acknowledgment to questions from Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Norm Dicks (D-WA) apropos the appulse of H.R. 1 (the FY 2011 CR anesthetized by the House on February 19) on aliment assurance inspections, Vilsack acclaimed that the Aliment Assurance Inspection Service (FSIS) account “is predominantly personnel.” As such, the $88 actor cut to the FSIS account included in H.R.1 would accept an actual aftereffect on inspectors and added employees.
Vilsack was additionally asked about how H.R. 1 and the President’s FY 2012 account appeal would appulse USDA’s assay budget. He responded by acquainted that because Congress and the Administration accept alone earmarks, which accept adjourned assay and abnormally assay accessories in the past, all-embracing assay allotment will be down, acute accurate prioritization.
In accession to aliment assurance and research, associates of the Subcommittee aloft a cardinal of apropos accompanying to attention and agronomics and diet programs. Apropos SNAP (food stamps), Vilsack acclaimed that the absurdity amount in the acquittal of SNAP allowances is low, about 4 percent, and that 60 percent of those errors are overpayments, while 40 percent are underpayments.
On conservation, Vilsack explained that the President’s FY 2012 account appeal prioritizes spending in adjustment to get “the best blast for the attention buck.” The FY 2012 Account Appeal proposes cogent cuts to attention programs, including some abiding cuts and some absolute eliminations. Click actuality to apprehend NSAC’s assay of the President’s account request.
In his able statement, the Secretary emphasized his rural bounded addition initiative, a plan that would use bristles percent of ten absolute rural development programs to abutment bounded bread-and-butter and job conception strategies including bounded and bounded aliment systems, renewable energy, broadband, accustomed resource-based development through aggressive grants. The Administration’s account includes a appeal for a $5 actor access for Rural Business Opportunity Grants to abutment planning grants to advance these strategies.
Toward the end of the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston (R-GA) appropriate that the Attention Reserve Program, the better and best cher of the acreage bill attention programs, should be on the table for FY 2011 and FY 2012 cuts, arguing that the affairs is “very oversubscribed” and that it is no best focused on environmentally acute land. Vilsack responded by acquainted that because crop prices are so high, USDA is absolutely absorption added on awful erodible acreage than in the past.
Finally, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), baronial affiliate on the Subcommittee, asked the Secretary how USDA affairs to advance in amoebic agriculture. “Between research, exports, marketing, announcement the co-existence of amoebic and genetically engineered (GE) agronomical products, and the Agency’s Amoebic Initiative, USDA is already advance in amoebic agriculture,” Vilsack said.
USDA’s Inspector General Phyllis Fong testified afore the aforementioned Subcommittee on Wednesday. Fong explained that the three primary areas of focus appropriate now for the Appointment of Inspector General (OIG) are: (1) blank of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act spending; (2) deepening aliment safety; and (3) acclamation abnormal payments, or instances in which the USDA paid out affairs money to amateur recipients.
Many of the questions asked by associates of the Subcommittee focused on a abridgement of activity to abode the artifice and abnormal payments OIG has identified. Chairman Kingston (R-GA) and Baronial Affiliate Farr (D-CA) both asked for advice about abnormal acreage affairs payments and acreage affairs fraud. Fong responded that the OIG is attractive into these concerns.
Rep. DeLauro asked about aliment assurance and in accurate to a abstraction on e. coli in beef that she was amenable for accepting into legislation aftermost fall. Fong said that the bureau still lacks the prevalence ante of e. coli in beef and appropriately that the abstraction is ongoing. DeLauro additionally acclaimed that the government relies on industry to accommodate aliment assurance abstracts and the Inspector General responded that it would be ideal to accept aliment assurance inspectors in plants accession abstracts and accouterment after-effects anon to the Aliment Assurance Inspection Service (FSIS).
Rep. Farr asked about an analysis into a fertilizer banker in California who switched out amoebic capacity for non-organic ingredients. Fong responded that investigations are still underway and that California is demography a proactive access to anticipate such issues in the future. She added that there are added audits planned for amoebic dairy and crop insurance. Farr declared that he appreciates all such audits for organics because consumers account the amoebic label.
When asked about the implications of H.R. 1, the Inspector General appear that if it became law her appointment would accept to furlough the absolute agents on a rolling base for six weeks, acceptation that alone the accomplished priorities would be addressed.