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Committee OKs USDA/FDA Budgets and Food Stamps Go Electronic

posted on June 25, 2004

Hello, I'm Rick Swalwell. Mark Pearson is off this week.

It's called Gross Domestic Product and it's one of the most closely watched indicators of the nation's economic health and well-being. That's because GDP measures the value of ALL goods and services produced in the United States.

This week, the government reported a first quarter GDP of 3.9 percent  a pace that was solid but still fell short of expectations. Analysts blame the slower-than-expected growth on the swollen trade deficit and more modest spending by consumers.

The spending habits of Congress have been slightly more aggressive as lawmakers work to keep government programs running. Among the multi-billion dollar endorsements given this week was a bill to fund next year's farm programs.

Committee OKs USDA/FDA Budgets and Food Stamps Go Electronic On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee voted to approve an 83.6 billion dollar fiscal year 2005 spending bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. That figure will cost taxpayers slightly less than last year's appropriations.

The committee also voted Wednesday to add language to the spending bill barring USDA from transferring money to use for purposes other than originally designated.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet approved its version of FY 2005 spending for USDA, a step necessary before both houses in Congress can agree on a unified bill.

Some key issues of the House spending bill include the level of funding for mad cow or BSE prevention and animal identification, and whether lawmakers will offset USDA-recommended reductions in crop insurance. This week's bill re-opened the 2002 Farm Bill by slashing funding for conservation programs, according to the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. In addition, farm bill mandatory funding for rural development, renewable energy and agricultural research.

The 2005 agriculture spending bill funds farm and rural programs and the FDA. It provides 16.8 billion dollars in discretionary spending and 66.4 billion dollars for mandatory programs such as crop subsidies and food stamps.

On that note, the Agriculture Department announced this week that it will modernize the image of food stamps. The paper stamps issued under the government's Food Stamp Program will be phased out this month and replaced with a plastic card much like a bank debit card. According to the USDA, the program subsidizes food purchases for 23 million low-income Americans every month.

Ann Veneman, Secretary of Agriculture: "For 2 decades, electronic benefit transfer has been billed as the future of food stamps. I'm pleased to join everyone in this room today, the future is now."

Tags: agriculture digital food government Mad Cow news poverty USDA