Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said President Barack Obama's proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is reflective and must be taken in the context of changes that have occurred in the past 15 months at USDA.  Vilsack called the spending blueprint "an opportunity to manage change properly." Between 2010 and 2012, USDA's operating budget was reduced by more than 12 percent, the budget document says.

The president has proposed $155 billion in USDA outlays, of which about 83 percent, or $128 billion, would be for mandatory programs, including nutrition assistance, farm commodity programs, and crop insurance.  Nutrition assistance is the largest budgetary component, accounting for a 72 percent share. Farm and commodity programs make up 16 percent of the proposal, with conservation and forestry holding a 6 percent share.

Discretionary program spending of $27 billion (17 percent of the total) makes up the balance of the president's budget for USDA. Discretionary programs include the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, research, and conservation technical assistance.

One farm program policy change submitted by the president would eliminate direct payments to farmers, for a $30 billion savings over 10 years. The president also calls for changes to various crop insurance program provisions to achieve other budgetary savings.  For the proposals to become effective, Congress would have to amend underlying federal farm law.

Funding for selected USDA programs in FY 2013 include $200 million for the Market Access Program, for export market development; $1.4 billion for the Public Law 480 overseas food aid donation program; $431 million for direct payments to rice farmers; $1.4 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program; and $972 million for the Conservation Security Program.