Roughly 40 percent of the money spent by the federal government each fiscal year is determined through the appropriations process. Fiscal years start in October and end in September. Once the President releases his proposed budget each winter, the Subcommittees and Committees hold hearings to consider the impact of appropriated funds in the past and how much the individual programs will likely need in the next fiscal year.
After the hearing, the Subcommittees and Committees pass their version of the bills, then the full House and Senate must pass the bills. Any differences in the bills that are passed by the House and Senate must be resolved, and then the bill must be signed by the President. If this does not happen by the beginning of the next fiscal year, an extension of the current funding is usually granted. If not, the programs cease to function.
OTA delivers organic appropriations recommendations to key Members of Congress soon after the President releases his proposed budget each winter, and submits testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Agriculture. The recommendations typically include funding for the National Organic Program, organic data collection, and organic research and development.
For more information about the federal appropriations process, visit the House and Senate Appropriations Committees websites. Below, find OTA priorities for corresponding years, memos that cover pertinent hearings, submitted testimony, and handouts that OTA is distributing at meetings with Congressional office.
FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations are signed into law
On November 17, the House and Senate passed Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations as part of a minibus bill that also included funding for Commerce, Justice, and Science programs. The bill was subsequently signed into law by President Obama.
Conference Committee Releases Conference Report on FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations
The Conference Report and Joint Explanatory Statement for the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations was released by the conference of 38 senators and representatives who were assigned to work out the differences in the House and Senate passed appropriations bills on November 15th. The agriculture appropriations for Fiscal Year 2012 total $19.9 billion, roughly $100 million less than Fiscal Year 2011, and $3.2 billion less than Fiscal Year 2010. However, programs important to the organic industry were spared from any cuts below Fiscal Year 2011 levels. Maintaining funds for organic programs at levels that are the same or higher than Fiscal Year 2011 in the current fiscal and political environment is a result of the efforts by OTA’s membership to participate in the political process by attending Hill meetings at Policy Conference, and being willing to contact their Members of Congress when needed.
The Report supports the National Organic Program being funded at Fiscal Year 2011 levels or higher ($6.9 million). The Organic Data Initiative is also funded, as the Report increases funding for USDA’s Market News Program by $300,000 to specifically increase reporting on organic products, and directs USDA’s Economic Research Service to continue funding for the Organic Data Initiative. The Organic Transitions Program is funded at $4 million, which is the same as Fiscal Year 2011. The Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Area Program is funded at $2.25 million, after being eliminated in Fiscal Year 2011.
In addition to the Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, and Science programs, the report contains a short-term continuing resolution to fund government programs for which the appropriations process has not been completed so the programs continue to operate through December 18th, or until those specific appropriations bills have been completed. The House and Senate are expected to vote on final passage of the appropriations bill by November 18th, before the current continuing resolution expires.
The House press release is available here, and the Senate press release is available here.
Senate Passes Agriculture Appropriations Bill
On November 1st, the Senate passed a minibus appropriations bill to fund agriculture programs, including programs that are critical to the organic industry; commerce, justice and science programs; and transportation, housing and urban development for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2012, which ends on September 30th, 2012. The bill passed 69-30, with no changes to the organic provisions that were passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Senate Appropriations Committee Passes FY2012 Agriculture Funding Bill
The Senate Committee on Appropriations passed the fiscal year 2012 agriculture appropriations bill on September 7th. The bill and Committee Report do not specify the amount of funds that are to be assigned to the National Organic Program (NOP), but do fund the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which contains NOP, at $82 million. This is $9.5 million more than the House bill allocates for this agency. The House report language recommended that NOP be funded at or above fiscal year 2011 levels, so we are optimistic this language will be included in the Conference Report if the full Senate passes the bill.
The Organic Data Initiative (ODI) was not funded at a specific level, but the Committee Report language directed funding appropriated for the Economic Research Service be used to continue funding ODI. The House passed bill includes an amendment to fund ODI at $300,000. The Senate bill contains $3.992 million for the Organic Integrated Transitions Program (ORG), compared to $3.969 million appropriated by the House. The Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas Program (ATTRA) was funded at $2.25 million, $225,000 more than the House approved bill. This is promising progress since ATTRA was zeroed out in the fiscal year 2011 Continuing Resolution.
Also included in the Committee Report was language directing the National Agricultural Statistics Service to conduct the Organic Productions Survey on a regular basis. Conservation programs were deeply cut; The Conservation Stewardship Program losing $35 million, compared to losing $171 million in the House bill, and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program losing $350 million, the same as the House.
Fiscal year 2011 ends on September 30th. If the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill is not finalized by then, we will likely see a string of continuing resolutions, which is what Congress used to fund the government from October 2010 through April 2011. To avoid a continuing resolution, or a shut-down of the government programs funded through this bill, the full Senate must pass the bill. Then, a conference of the House and Senate would take place to work out the differences between the House and Senate bills. The bill worked out by this conference committee would then go back to the House and Senate for final passage before being sent to the President for his signature. Another option, which would avoid a conference, would be for either the House or Senate to pass the other chambers’ bill without changes. Because of the substantial differences in the bills, this is unlikely to happen.
The Senate Appropriations Committee Report is available, and the Senate Appropriations Committee passed bill is available.
The House passed appropriations report is posted, and the House passed Appropriations bill is available.
House Passes Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill
The House passed its Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations bill on June 16th by a vote of 217-203. The bill is the funding mechanism for the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. The total cost of the bill is roughly $125.5 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding, a reduction of more than $7 billion from the President’s request. Discretionary funding is reduced by $2.7 billion from last year’s level – a cut of over $5 billion from the President’s Fiscal Year 2012 request. However, mandatory (automatic) funding in the bill increases by $3 billion over last year to a total of $108 billion, and equals more than 86% of the total funding in the bill.
Even with these deep cuts, the National Organic Program has maintained funding at Fiscal Year 2011 levels (just under $7 million). The Organic Data Initiative (ODI) was funded at $300,000, as requested by the President and OTA, in a floor amendment that passed with a large bipartisan vote. The Organic Integrated Research Program (ORG) maintained funding at $4 million, which is level with current Fiscal Year 2011 funding. The Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas program (ATTRA) was funded at $2 million. ATTRA funding was eliminated in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution that was passed in April, so having funding included in the bill is huge victory, although it is $800,000 less than the $2.8 million funding level that has been appropriated in previous years. Maintaining these funding levels for organic programs is a direct result of the OTA members that participated in Hill visits during Policy Conference.
Unfortunately, conservation programs sustained roughly $1 billion worth of cuts in the bill. Research and nutrition programs also sustained deep reductions in the House bill. An amendment by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) to eliminate the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative at USDA was introduced last night and narrowly passed on a vote of 212-201. The Know Your Farmer Initiative is not a program that receives funding, but is an initiative within USDA to streamline existing programs authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill to encourage local/regional food systems and make them more efficient. OTA lobbied against the Foxx amendment and in favor of an amendment offered by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) to support Know Your Farmer. The Pingree amendment failed 171-238.
While the House has finished their appropriations bill, the process in now stalled, as the Senate has not yet passed a budget resolution to begin their appropriations process. However, OTA has been meeting with Senate offices and the Senate Appropriations Committee to make them aware of the importance of these programs to the growing organic industry.
The roll call vote, passed bill language, and amendments can be seen here.
House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee Passes FY2012 Funding Bill
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture passed the Fiscal Year 2012 funding bill on May 25th, and has now posted the Report Language listing specific funding information. The total funding amount for USDA and FDA is $17,250,000,000, which is $2,669,000,000 below Fiscal Year 2011 and $5,039,000,000 below the President’s Request. The Agricultural Marketing Service, which contains the National Organic Program (NOP) was cut by over $9 million. However, the report directs the National Organic Program to continue to be funded at Fiscal Year 2011 levels or higher. Additionally, the report assigns the $4 million for the Organic Integrated Transition Research Program (ORG) and $2 million for the Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas Program (ATTRA). ORG was nearly eliminated in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution, but was instead reduced by $1 million to $4 million, which is continued in Fiscal Year 2012 bill. ATTRA funding was cut in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution, but has been funded again in the subcommittee’s Fiscal Year 2012 bill, $800k less than the previous level. Research and conservation programs sustained deep cuts in the bill.
The full House Appropriations Committee will be meeting on May 31st to mark-up the agriculture bill. We have been told that there are no current efforts to reduce funding for these programs below the subcommittee levels above.
OTA Submits Testimony on Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations
OTA submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Programs on April 14th, requesting funding for programs that are critical to the survival and growth of the organic industry. The testimony focuses on the growth of the industry and the economic benefits it creates through job creation and rural economic growth, and why specific programs, including the National Organic Program, Organic Data Initiative, Organic Transitions Integrated Research Program, Appropriate Technology Transfer to Rural Areas and the Market Access Program, are so important to the continued success of the organic sector. The full testimony can be read here.
FY2011 Appropriations Updates
On March 1st, OTA joined 34 other agricultural and environmental organizations in sending a letter to the US Senate is support of conservation programs. The funding bill passed by the House two weeks ago, HR 1, contains cuts to multiple conservation programs, which would have a negative impact on organic producers that participate in these programs.
The Senate has not introduced its funding bill, but Senate leadership and the President have expressed disappointment in the House bill. A short term funding measure was passed on March 2nd to continue the operating the government through March 18th, at which time another short term funding bill will be if a bill is not passed to fund the government through the end of Fiscal Year 2011.
House Passes Funding Bill
At 4:40 AM on February 19, the House passed HR 1, a bill to fund the government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011 at levels $100 billion less than what the President requested, effectively cutting $61 billion since we are nearly five months into the Fiscal Year. The bill passed 235 to 189. The bill eliminated funding for the Organic Transitions Integrated Research Program (ORG). Read more. (OTA Members Only Resource)
President’s Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Released
While Congress is still working on funding levels for the remainder of the Fiscal Year 2011, the President released his Fiscal Year 2012 Budget. Programs housed within USDA can be seen here. Please note that this is separate from the funding bill currently making its way through Congress, which will fund government programs for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011. The 2012 budget includes about $10 million for the National Organic Program (NOP), an increase of $3 million. Read more. (OTA Members Only Resource)
Organic Programs Targeted by Republican Study Committee
The Republican Study Committee, which is comprised of 175 Republican Members of the House, has introduced the Spending Reduction Act of 2011 to reduce the federal deficit by eliminating over 100 government programs, and reducing discretionary spending. The report claims that this would save $2.5 trillion over the next ten years. The list of programs to be cut includes the National Organic Program. Defense, Homeland Security, and Veteran Affairs programs would not be impacted. According to the RSC’s list, cutting Cost-Share will save $56.2 million annually. Obviously, this savings is exaggerated because the Program was mandated $22 million total over the life of the 2008 Farm Bill. Cost-Share, USDA Sugar Program, and Mohair subsidies appear to be the only agricultural programs listed for complete elimination.
In addition to elimination of the Cost- Share Program is the proposed reduction of all discretionary spending to Fiscal Year 2008 levels in Fiscal Year 2011, and a freeze on discretionary spending at Fiscal Year 2006 levels from Fiscal Year 2012 to Fiscal Year 2021. This would do away with much of the progress in funding the National Organic Program and the Organic Data Initiative, which OTA and others in the organic community have made in the last four years.
Cuts Proposed for FY 2011 Agriculture Appropriations
On February 3rd, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released a budget for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011, proposing substantial cuts to all discretionary spending. Congress has been operating at Fiscal Year 2010 levels, because new Fiscal Year 2011 appropriation bills were not passed before the end of the previous fiscal year in September. The Continuing Resolution expires on March 4th, and whether another Continuing Resolution will be necessary is yet to be seen.
The budget claims to reduce non-security spending for the remaining eight months of Fiscal Year 2011 by more than $30 billion. The budget was handed over to the House Appropriations Committee, which will determine how the available funds will be divided. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) announced that the funds available for the agriculture, rural development, and the Food and Drug Administration will be reduced from $23.3 billion in Fiscal Year 2010 to $20 billion for Fiscal Year 2011, which is 13% less than the President requested for Fiscal Year 2011.
All government programs are under close scrutiny for spending reductions, which was a major part of the political platform for Republicans in the 2010 elections. OTA is currently visiting offices on the Hill to explain the economic importance of the organic industry for rural economies and meeting consumer demand.
Senate Appropriations Committee Passes Agriculture Bill
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Agriculture Appropriations bill on July 15th. The bill was passed as introduced, with no amendments offered and no debate taking place. The bill contains $22.839 billion in discretionary budget authority, a $296 million discretionary decrease over the fiscal year 2010 enacted level, and $27 million below the President's request. Mandatory programs, such as farm support programs, received $109.125 billion, just over the President’s request of $109.120 billion, and more than the $97.983 billion enacted in Fiscal Year 2010. Find information on funding for organic programs here. (OTA Members Only Resource)
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture Hearing on Fiscal Year 2011
The House Committee on Appropriation’s Subcommittee on Agriculture marked up the Fiscal Year 2011 Agriculture Appropriations Bill on June 30th. The bill includes $23.1 billion in funding, about $200 million less than Fiscal Year 2010. $2.5 billion of the funding is for the Food and Drug Administration. The bill language has not been released, but a summary is available that seems to favor OTA’s appropriations priorities. Read a summary of the ideas discussed during the hearing. (OTA Members Only Resource)
Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee hearing on the USDA Budget
On Tuesday, March 2, 2010, the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies held a hearing to review the fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack testified and was joined by Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and Budget Officer Scott Steele. (OTA Members Only Resource)
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Ag questions USDA Inspector General
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, chaired by Rep. Rosa DeLauro
(D-CT) held a hearing on April 22 questioning the USDA Inspector General on several different areas of USDA’s responsibility. Out of the more than 80 reports issued by the IG since FY2009, DeLauro said the reports on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, food safety, the National Organic Program and subsidy payment programs were the most important. Read highlights from the hearing directly related to organic and a summary of general issues covered. (OTA Members Only Resource)