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FY2011 Budget Agriculture GOP v Obama

Updated on March 3, 2012

February 22, 2011

FY2011 Agriculture Budget

As per usual there is a lot of talk about the FY2011 budget and little data. While a lot of the more controversial cuts are mentioned, it is hard to get a real sense of the overall impact and differences between the two budget proposals (Obama's and the GOP's).

A lot of the information out there seems to focus on how much is being cut, but without necessarily providing the percentage of the cuts. So for instance the GOP budget cuts the WIC budget by $747 million, which sounds like a lot, but is actually only a 9.6% cut.

I have started to go through the budget and put together charts which compare the GOP and Obama budgets with the FY2010 budget. I have started with the Agriculture budget and will probably do each budget section separately. The information comes from the House Appropriations committee.1 They seem to break the data into sections based on committee rather than department. So for instance, the FDA is under the Agriculture section despite being an HHS program. I am not going to follow their groupings exactly.

In millions of dollars.
In millions of dollars.

Chart Notes

The Appropriations information provided only showed the difference between the GOP budget and the FY2010 and Obama budgets. To build the chart I had to find and input the 2010 budget numbers, but I can not guarantee these are perfect or exact. Some budget numbers are a bit tricky to pin down. Also it is in some cases difficult to know whether the categories in the appropriations list match up exactly to the categories in the Agency budgets. While the individual programs are probably fine I am less confident that the Administration and "Other" stuff categories are comprised equally.

The programs shown do not include all Department of Agriculture programs.

FY2011 Agriculture Budget comparison

The chart below shows the GOP and Obama budgets compared to the FY2010 budget by percentages differences.

FY2011 Agriculture Budget GOP v Obama

The chart below shows the percentage difference between the GOP budget and the Obama budget.


So what does all this tell us? Well for one, and I really hate to say it, a lot of the GOP cuts seem pretty reasonable so far. That doesn't mean I support them but it certainly doesn't seem to be a slash-and-burn campaign.

There are a couple things I think to look for; programs with significant cuts and programs where there is a large difference between the two budgets. My suspicion is that deep cuts will be fought because they can be fairly destructive and large differentials will be fought over because they represent significant policy differences.

Contentious Programs

Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS)
Obama requested an 8% increase while the GOP requested a 10% decrease. The AMS facilitates the marketing of US agricultural products, but they also are regulators that enforce the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act and the Federal Seed Act. In addition to the individual agricultural commodity programs, they run a Science and Technology Program, a Transportation and Marketing Program, as well as the National Organic Program. I suspect the democrats will fight to cut the budget differential at least in half for this program.

Farm Service Agency (FSA)
For this program, Obama requested a 7% increase, while the GOP requested a 11% decrease. The FSA "supports the delivery of farm credit, disaster assistance, and commodity and related programs and also administers some of the USDA conservation programs".2 I know next to nothing about agriculture and nothing about the FSA, so can not really comment upon how strongly either side feels about this program. It had a budget of $1,698 million in FY2010 so is a large agency.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides "Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk".3 This program accounts for roughly a quarter of the USDA's discretionary budget.

I have to give the GOP a little credit for having the marbles to take food away from pregnant women and children, however I don't think there is any chance the Democrats will let cuts of that size take place. Depending on how hard the Democrats are willing to fight for it, I suspect there will be either no reductions from 2010 levels or a very minimal reduction up to maybe 3%.

Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS)
The FAS runs a number of programs to expand market opportunities for American agricultural commodities and to deliver international food aid, through the Food for Progress program (PL480) and the McGovern-Dole Grants. It is these programs for which we see the greatest percentage cuts by the GOP and the greatest percentage differentials between the proposed budgets. Again, I know little about these programs, but the GOP dollar amount cuts to the Food for Progress Program are as large as the proposed cuts to WIC, so are pretty important. While the GOP didn't request large cuts to the FAS marketing and trade component, Obama had requested a significant increase for this program.

It is a lot easier cutting food aid to foreign nations than to your own people. Still, I suspect that food aid is seen by the administration as an important component of foreign policy. I would predict that the budget differentials for these programs will be cut in half.

In millions of dollars.
In millions of dollars.

Agricultural Budget prediction

The estimated cuts shown in the chart to the right are actually more significant than I think will actually happen. It really represents more of what I imagine would be the worst-case scenario (or best-case depending on your viewpoint).


1. FY2011 Continuing Resolution Reductions. The U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Appropriations , n.d. Web. 22 Feb 2011. <>.

2. "USDA FY2010 Budget Summary and Annual Performance Plan." U.S. Department of Agriculture, n.d. Web. 22 Feb 2011. <>. Page 21.

3. From WIC website. Web 22 Feb 2011. <>


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