Agriculture Department spending would fall 14 percent in the new fiscal year, due almost entirely to reduced SNAP benefits with the end of the pandemic, said the White House on Thursday. It proposed relatively modest initiatives at the USDA for fiscal 2024, such as offering free school meals to more poor children, while seeing golden potential in the new farm bill for broad-scale change.
Four popular USDA land stewardship and working lands programs will receive an additional $850 million this year to handle the perennial crush of applications for assistance, said the Biden administration on Monday. The outlay will be the Agriculture Department's first use of the $19.5 billion earmarked for its conservation programs in the climate, health and tax law passed last summer.
Thirty Democrats in the House and Senate, in a letter to congressional leaders working on broad-scale climate and infrastructure legislation, called for "a substantial investment in farmers, ranchers, and rural communities as part of the climate solution."
Farmers expect to be paid for climate mitigation, and not at the expense of the traditional farm subsidies, said the president of the largest U.S. farm group during a discussion of President Biden's goal of an agriculture sector that achieves net-zero emission of greenhouse gases by 2050. Other ag leaders on the panel organized by USDA agreed there must be a financial payoff for the voluntary, incentive-based practices espoused by the administration to succeed.
Presidential aspirant Sen. Cory Booker proposed a climate change program on Thursday on the scale of FDR’s New Deal to underwrite voluntary soil and water conservation on more than 100 million acres of farmland and the planting of 15 billion trees across the country.
During a trip to Michigan, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue introduced a website that will eventually allow producers to file crop support and land stewardship forms digitally instead of having to bring paper copies to their local USDA office.
The USDA spends several billion dollars a year on voluntary land stewardship programs. With the 2018 farm bill on the horizon, two members of the House Agriculture Committee have unveiled legislation that would require the USDA to evaluate and report on the impact of the soil and water projects it bankrolls.