Cornerstone Report from Washington

Vol. 11, No. 1 – Jan. 3, 2013

 

President Signs Fiscal Cliff Bill, Including One-Year Farm Bill Extension and Two-Month Delay of Sequestration.

 

As you probably know, the House of Representatives concurred with the Senate version of H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, and President Obama signed the bill into law yesterday.

 

As reported in Cornerstone’s 2013 Farm Bill Report of Jan. 1, 2013, this legislation includes a one-year extension of hundreds of authorizations for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and a two-month postponement of the “sequestration” (across-the-board) budget cuts enacted as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011. This report provides further explanation of what this legislation means for the land-grant community.

 

Farm Bill Extension

As we reported on Tuesday, Title VII of H.R. 8 is a one-year extension of USDA statutory authorities that expired on Sept. 30, 2012 (or another date, generally in 2012). However, to keep this title of H.R. 8 “budget neutral,” dozens of programs which had mandatory funding between FY 2008 and FY 2012 were reauthorized, but without any such mandatory funding. This included four major programs managed by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA): (1) Organic Ag Research & Extension Initiative;
(2) Specialty Crops Research Initiative; (3) Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development; and (4) Biomass R&D. A full copy of H.R. 8 as passed by both the Senate and House of Representatives is available here:
http://land-grant.org/docs/FY2013/HR8-ENR.pdf

 

What this means is that unless otherwise specified in H.R. 8, all programs at NIFA (and other USDA agencies) have their statutory authorizations extended through the end of FY 2013 (Sept. 30, 2013). So, with the exception of the mandatory funding described above, all of the reauthorizations sought by the land-grant community acting through the APLU Board on Agriculture Assembly’s Committee on Legislation and Policy (CLP) have been extended for one-year.

 

However, the program adjustments (“tweaks”) sought by the CLP and program terminations proposed by the Senate and House Agriculture Committees have not yet been made. Such adjustments and multi-year reauthorizations await enactment of a full Farm Bill, which is expected later in 2013. (Under congressional rules, all bills expire at the end of each Congress, so both the House and Senate must start over again, but the Farm Bill process may be expedited as a result of the substantial progress each chamber made in 2012.)

 

Finally, a development that will have impact to services which Cooperative Extension has a substantial role in delivering. According to the Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 8 “would increase certain payments to dairy producers by $110 million in 2013 and reduce spending on nutrition education by the same amount in that year.” H.R. 8 would reduce the amount provided by formula currently in law and specifically provide $285 million in FY 2013 for nutrition education and obesity prevention grant programs. The specified amounts provided by H.R. 8 increase to $401 million in FY 2014 and $407 million in FY 2015 before finally reverting to the original formula in FY 2016.  This program is part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Education effort administered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.

 

Sequestration and FY 2013 Appropriations

As you are aware, in lieu of the regular appropriations bills, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) last September to keep all federal departments and agencies funded through March 27, 2013.

 

Now that the 112th Congress has adjourned and the 113th Congress convened, there are two likely options to finish the FY 2013 appropriations process: (1) pass individual appropriations bills (either singly or in one or more “omnibus” bills); or (2) enact a second CR that runs through Sept. 30, 2013. At this juncture it is too early to predict which option has a greater probability. What we can predict is that NIFA programs are unlikely to be funded in FY 2013 above their FY 2012 enacted levels.

 

The new sequestration deadline of March 1 is likely to drive this process and we may well need the full force of the land-grant system to try and minimize the impacts on NIFA programs.

 

In any case, we will be certain to keep you informed as further developments occur on either the Farm Bill or the FY 2013 appropriations bills.

 

The Cornerstone Team