The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 10, 2013

Ag, education cuts, energy boosted: Agency by agency guide to Obama's 2014 budget

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has proposed a $3.8 trillion budget for fiscal 2014 that aims to slash the deficit by a net $600 billion over 10 years, raise taxes and trim popular benefit programs, including Social Security and Medicare.

The White House claims deficit reductions of $1.8 trillion, but Obama's proposal would negate more than $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts that started in March. Those cuts average 5 percent for domestic agencies and 8 percent for the Defense Department this year.

The agency-by-agency breakdown:

Agency: Agriculture

Total Spending: $145.8 billion

Percentage Change from 2013: 5.9 percent decrease

Discretionary Spending: $21.5 billion

Mandatory Spending: $124.4 billion

Highlights: Similar to years past, Obama's budget proposes savings by cutting farm subsidies. The proposal envisions a $37.8 billion reduction in the deficit by eliminating some subsidies that are paid directly to farmers, reducing government help for crop insurance and streamlining agricultural land conservation programs.

The Obama administration says many of these subsidies can no longer be justified with the value of both crop and livestock production at all-time highs. Farm income is expected to increase 13.6 percent to $128.2 billion in 2013, the highest inflation-adjusted amount in 40 years.

Obama and his Republican predecessor, President George W. Bush, have proposed similar cuts every year and Congress has largely ignored them. There is congressional momentum for eliminating some subsidies paid directly to farmers this year, though, as farm-state lawmakers search for ways to cut agricultural spending and pass a five-year farm bill. There is less appetite among lawmakers to cut crop insurance.

The budget also would overhaul the way American food aid is sent abroad, a move largely anticipated by farm and food aid groups. The United States now donates much of its food aid by shipping food overseas, a process many groups say is inefficient. The budget would transfer the money used to ship the food to cash accounts at the United States Agency for International Development. The administration says that would help two million more people annually and save an estimated $500 million over 10 years. Farm and shipping groups are strongly opposed to the idea.

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