One day after releasing a legislative draft – in keeping with new procedures – the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee met to consider the FY12 agriculture appropriations bill. The legislation, reported by the subcommittee without amendment, now will be considered by the full Appropriations Committee on May 31, at which time numerous amendments are expected.

Normally, Members withhold controversial amendments at the subcommittee and offer them instead during consideration by the full committee or during floor debate. This year, all appropriations bills will be debated under an open rule, meaning any germane amendment can be offered during floor debate.

Subcommittee Chairman Kingston, R-Ga., said, “This subcommittee has begun making some of the tough choices necessary to right the ship. We have taken spending to below pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels while ensuring USDA, FDA, CFTC, and other agencies are provided the necessary resources to fulfil their duties.”

Overall, the bill proposes to cut USDA and FDA discretionary programs by 13.4 percent in addition to reductions of a similar amount in the FY11 continuing resolution completed last month. The legislation provides $16 million in cost share funding for boll weevil and pink bollworm eradication programs and authorizes the USDA’s Farm Service Agency to make up to $100 million in loans to the programs. The legislation reduces conservation programs by $1 billion; research by $354 million, and nutrition programs were subject to substantial cuts.

No funds would be provided to administer the Biomass Crop Assistance Program or the Federal Crop Insurance Act to provide a performance-based premium discount in the crop insurance program. The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) would be cut by $171 million relative to its farm bill-mandated level and, if enacted, may require USDA to terminate contracts it has signed with farmers across the country. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program would be cut by $350 million. The Wetlands Reserve Program and Grasslands Reserve Program would be cut by 64,200 acres and 96,000 acres, respectively, while the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program would be cut by $50 million and $35 million, respectively.

The bill fully funds direct operating loans at $1.05 billion and direct farm ownership loans at $475 million. Commodity programs are not affected by the subcommittee bill but are expected to be the subject of amendments during full committee consideration on May 31. In addition to cutting conservation, credit, rural development, and research programs, the subcommittee’s bill would prohibit USDA from using any money to implement its Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule on livestock market competition.

Before the bill can become law, the Senate must pass its own funding bill. The House and Senate bills must be reconciled, and the president must sign off on the final package. As such, it is unlikely that all of the cuts proposed by the House subcommittee will make it into a final appropriations bill.