Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is concerned about what a sequester could do to agriculture, according to an article in the Columbus Dispatch. If the automatic 10 percent spending cuts occur this Friday, Vilsack said there would be fewer farm loans, agency staff furloughs and possible consumer food shortages due to a lack of food inspectors.
According to the article, Yvonne Lesicko, Ohio Farm Bureau’s senior director of legislative and regulatory policy “is confident the USDA will do whatever it takes to keep the country’s food supply safe.”
It is critical that Congress deal with the sequestration, as well as other budget issues such as the debt ceiling, appropriations bills and annual budget, so that the Agriculture Committees can make progress on long-term farm policy via a five-year farm bill. Lack of a new farm bill is a big problem for farmers and ranchers around the country.
While much of the media attention has been focused on FSIS and food safety (meat inspection, etc., for USDA), one needs to keep in mind that has been the primary focus of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s talking points. The reality is that a 5 percent cut to the USDA budget via a sequester hits virtually all of USDA’s programs – from nutrition and food safety to rural development and research to APHIS and conservation and farm programs and trade and . . . . .on down the line.
The effects of a sequestration will be especially felt given that the federal government is 6 months into its fiscal year – so if the 5 percent cut occurs, then Sec. Vilsack will have to cut 5 percent of his total outlays from the remaining 6 months of allocated funds – effectively a 10 percent cut on what he has left to cover programs and personnel.
Virtually every corner of USDA’s budget will be hit – and those cuts will be felt in numerous direct and indirect ways by farmers, ranchers, rural communities – and states, who administer many of the nutrition assistance programs.