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February 04, 2008   Email to Friend 

SCHAFER OUTLINES PRESIDENT BUSH'S FY 2009 AGRICULTURE BUDGET
Stevin Westcott
(202) 720-4623
February 04, 2008

Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner Present the Department of Agriculture 2009 Budget.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer today released details of President Bush's FY 2009 U.S. Department of Agriculture budget, which advances the President's goals of building a strong agricultural economy, improving the quality of life in rural America, increasing energy security, conserving our natural resources, and improving the nation's nutrition and health.

"The President's agriculture budget supports his commitment to increase the competitiveness of agriculture, ensure the safety of the food supply, and provide nutrition and housing assistance to those most in need." said Schafer. "This budget aims to enhance those programs with a proven track record for achieving results and reflects the President's goal to keep spending under control to reduce the deficit."

Total USDA expenditures are estimated at $95 billion in FY 2009, which is approximately the same level as FY 2008. Roughly 76 percent of expenditures, or $72 billion in 2009, will be for mandatory programs that provide services required by law, which include many of the nutrition assistance, commodity, export promotion and conservation programs.

USDA's discretionary programs account for the remaining 24 percent of expenditures, or $23 billion in 2009. Discretionary programs include the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program; rural development loans and grants; research and education; soil and water conservation technical assistance; management of National Forests and domestic marketing assistance.

In January 2007, the Administration announced a comprehensive set of farm bill proposals for strengthening the farm economy and rural America. These proposals represent a reform-minded, fiscally responsible approach to supporting America's farmers and ranchers. The President's 2009 budget is based on the provisions of the 2002 farm bill and reflects the Administration's proposals for changes. Enactment of a farm bill will affect some of the estimates in the 2009 budget.

Highlights of the FY 2009 budget include:

Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative -- The budget proposes $264 million for on-going programs to support the multi-agency Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative. The 2009 budget represents an $81 million increase for USDA to continue improving the safety and security of America's food supply and agriculture. Funding increases include: $14 million to enhance research related to protecting the nation's food supplies; $20 million for research to improve animal vaccines, diagnostic tests, and other efforts; and $47 million to enhance surveillance and monitoring of pest and disease threats, strengthen response capabilities, improve animal identification, and other efforts.

In addition, the budget includes $13 million to proceed with the design and planning for the new Consolidated Poultry Research Facility in Athens, Georgia, as the Department's premier center for conducting critical research on exotic and emerging avian diseases that could have devastating effects on human and animal health.

Food Safety -- The budget requests a record funding level of $1.1 billion for the Food Safety and Inspection Service. This funding will ensure that the demand for inspection is met and will allow us to build on our success in improving the safety of the food supply. USDA has been working to strengthen the scientific basis of meat, poultry and egg products inspection so the risk of exposure to any food contaminant will be even less than it is now. This includes continuing the Department's effort to increase the speed with which we can detect and respond to outbreaks of foodborne illness.

Farm Support Programs -- The Department's farm support programs receive mandatory funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). Under current law, CCC expenditures are projected to decline from $20.2 billion in 2005 and 2006 to $10.5 billion in 2009 under current law. The decline in net outlays since 2006 has been the result of higher commodity prices due to the growth in ethanol production, poor weather conditions around the world, rising market demand in Asia, and other factors. In 2007, the Administration submitted a comprehensive set of fiscally responsible farm bill proposals for strengthening the farm economy. The Administration's proposals would save about $600 million in commodity program outlays in 2009 compared to projected costs under current law.

Domestic Nutrition Assistance Participation and Funding -- The budget provides resources for increased participation and food costs in USDA's three major nutrition assistance programs: Food Stamps, Child Nutrition and WIC, with the nutrition assistance budget totaling $62 billion.

Food Stamp participation is projected to increase 200,000 from an average of 27.8 million in 2008 to about 28 million in 2009. The maximum Food Stamp allotment will increase by approximately 5 percent. The budget of $40.2 billion includes resources to fully fund estimated Food Stamp participation. The budget also provides a $3 billion contingency fund if actual costs exceed the estimated level.

School Lunch participation is estimated to reach 32.1 million children each day. The budget provides nearly $600 million in increases in Child Nutrition Programs to accommodate program needs for a total budget of $15.3 billion.

The budget proposes $6.3 billion to support an average of 8.6 million WIC participants per month, up from 8.5 million in 2008.

Farm Bill Conservation Program Funding and Program Enrollment -- USDA fosters environmental stewardship through conservation programs supported with CCC funding. The 2009 budget includes $4.6 billion to provide conservation financial and technical assistance on a cumulative total of 260 million acres. In dollar terms, the largest of these programs is the Conservation Reserve Program, estimated at just under $2 billion in 2009. Funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program will be increased to just over $1 billion in FY 2009. The budget proposes $181 million for the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), which will enable enrollment in FY 2009 of approximately 100,000 acres and bring the total acreage enrolled in the program to the 2002 farm bill cap of 2,275,000 acres.

The FY 2009 budget includes $801 million in discretionary funding for ongoing conservation work. This supports programs that provide high quality technical assistance to farmers and ranchers and that address their most serious natural resource concerns.

Wildland Fires -- The budget continues implementation of the President's Healthy Forests Initiative to mitigate the threat of catastrophic wildfires. Resources proposed in the budget will reduce hazardous fuels on almost 2.5 million acres of land. By the end of FY 2009, Federal agencies, including the Department of the Interior, will have treated hazardous fuels and accomplished landscape restoration activities on 29.9 million acres of the Nation's forests and wooded rangelands since the beginning of FY 2001.

The budget for the Forest Service also provides increased wildland fire resources to protect communities and natural resources, and provides for sustainable forests and communities through full funding of the Northwest Forest Plan.

Rural Development -- The FY 2009 budget includes nearly $15 billion for rural development programs. This level of funding supports the Administration's policy to maintain rental assistance for 230,000 low-income households that reside in USDA financed multi-family housing. An estimated 43,000 rural homeownership opportunities would be generated by $4.8 billion in loan guarantees. Funding for USDA's other key loan, loan guarantee and grant programs includes $1.6 billion for the water and waste disposal program, $4.1 billion for electric loans, $690 million for the telecommunication program, $298 million for the broadband access loan program, $512 million for the community programs, and $700 million for the business and industry program.

Research -- The budget requests over $2.3 billion to support USDA research programs. For FY 2009, the budget continues to emphasize the use of competitive grants through the National Research Initiative and the Hatch and McIntire-Stennis programs. Consistent with this approach, $185 million of research and $44 million for building and facilities earmarks are not funded. The budget increases funding for high priority bioenergy research aimed at improving the efficiency of converting cellulose to biofuels. Research also supports key initiatives for food and agriculture defense, and emerging diseases in crops and livestock. Finally, the budget includes funding needed to complete the 2007 Census of Agriculture.

Additional information regarding the FY 2009 budget proposal is available on the web at www.usda.gov/budget.


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