On Thursday Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talked about the budget before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. Vilsack backed the President's position that the final product should embrace the principles both of shared sacrifice and shared opportunity, to do so carefully, and in a way that reflects our values. He added that it is his hope that any funding proposals should provide USDA the time to appropriately manage any cuts so we can continue to be as effective as possible in serving our customers, the American people.
The 2012 USDA budget is for $130 billion, a reduction of $3 billion below the 2011 annualized continuing resolution. Discretionary programs would be cut $1.3 billion below the 2011 level. According to Vilsack, the budget focuses on two areas for improving food safety: the development of a public health information system that allows prevention of problems, and a uniform incident command structure to allow more effective response to foodborne illness outbreaks that might be multiagency in scope.
The Secretary told the Subcommittee of efforts already being made to streamline USDA. They are proposing to reduce or terminate selected programs and completely eliminate earmarks. At the same time, USDA is more than tripling direct loan support to help communities build and repair hundreds of hospitals, libraries, and police and fire stations. Vilsack says the budget reflects their commitment to promoting the domestic production of renewable energy and help keep U.S. exports flowing to our trading partners.