Forest Service Sequestration Update Attempt

There are a couple of E&E news stories today..this is a good time to give a shout out to our contributor that sends me stuff from E&E News.. it is a helpful and relevant news source, but many of us can’t afford our own subscriptions.

This one linked to this document. You can find the line item totals needing to be reduced.

one but it’s all about the rest of USDA, apparently because the Ag Committee asked..maybe House Natural Resources should do the same..

Several Agriculture Department officials, including Secretary Tom Vilsack, are scheduled to testify this week in front of House panels just days after across-the-board spending cuts went into place Friday.

Vilsack, who is set to appear tomorrow at a hearing of the House Agriculture Committee, likely will face questions on the so-called sequestration among a wide range of topics, from the farm bill to the drought to a recent proposal by USDA to define “rural.”

Tomorrow’s hearing will be the first formal opportunity committee members have had to question Vilsack about sequestration and how it will affect agricultural programs.

Vilsack was scheduled to testify before the Agriculture Committee at a hearing on the rural economy last week, but the hearing was postponed at the last minute when the committee’s chairman, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), got stuck in snowstorms in his home state.

Sequestration means a 10 to 12 percent cut for the rest of the year in the department’s programs, according to Vilsack, and the department plans to furlough meat and poultry inspectors and cut funding from conservation programs, among many other reductions. Agriculture Committee members have for weeks expressed concerns about the plans.

“I am concerned about your recent comments on how the sequester will impact the agricultural community,” Rep. Mike Conaway (Texas), a top Republican on the committee, wrote in a recent letter to Vilsack. “I understand that the sequester demands difficult across-the-board cuts within each program at the USDA, and I do not fault you for making tough decisions. However, our nation’s agricultural producers need you to manage these cuts in a way that protects them from as much harm as possible.”

The hearing also will likely touch on the farm bill, which House leaders failed to bring to the floor last year after the Agriculture Committee approved a version that would have cut $35 billion in direct spending. The bill was partially extended as part of the “fiscal cliff” legislation passed earlier this year, but the extension left several programs without funding, including the bill’s full suite of energy measures and key livestock disaster programs.

At recent public appearances, Vilsack has urged Congress to pass the five-year legislation. The lack of a bill, he says, is one of several risks the agricultural community is facing.

“Because we don’t have a farm bill, those livestock producers that were hurt so badly in 2012, those dairy producers, those poultry producers, were not afforded the opportunity to have the kind of disaster assistance that was in effect the year before,” Vilsack said at a recent Washington, D.C., speech to the agricultural industry, “and so they now face a financial risk that’s man-made.”

Climate change, continuing drought, and labor and trade barriers also threaten to upend the agricultural industry, he said in the same speech.

Here’s the problem the way the Denver Post editorial board saw it..

In my opinion, to reduce Washington Monument-ing and Chicken Little-hood, we would install committees composed of 1/4 and 1/4 of each party (people experienced with the budget from relevant committees) and 1/4 current employees and 1/4 recent retirees, to work with the agency on and to review the proposed cuts and suggest other ones. To work well, this is likely to require more flexibility as to where to take the cuts.

I’d also pick about 20 of the highest dollar dis-coordinated topics (done by more than one agency in a relatively uncoordinated way) say genomics research, and require all the agencies to get together and move toward a joint formal funding and coordinating mechanism, reducing the cross agency totals by 5%.

Leave a Comment