The emerging farm bill ultimately will define how government dollars are spent. In the meantime, the White House is fashioning a USDA budget that anticipates sizable fiscal demand.
The president's budget fulfills a promise made last year to support $73.5 billion in new spending over the next decade. .The White House wants that money distributed evenly over a 10-year period. But a Democrat-backed farm bill pending in the Senate would spend an estimated $44 billion through 2007, leaving about $30 billion for the remaining five years.
Ann Veneman, Secretary of Agriculture: "When you talk about the upfront loading, there is a concern ... we believe that spending ought to be spread over the 10-year period as evenly as possible to preserve a consistent baseline and some certainty for our farmers and ranchers."
A farm bill passed by the Republican-controlled House is more in line with administration thinking, spending $34.6 billion over the first five years.
The $73.5 billion represents a 78 percent increase over the spending required by existing farm programs, which expire September 30th. In the short term, Veneman expects there either will be a farm bill that affects 2002 crops or a supplemental appropriation for the coming crop year. Either way, there will be additional spending for farmers in 2002.
The administration's budget sets aside $4.2 billion for new farm spending this year and $7.3 billion in 2003. Beyond that, Veneman said the annual spending levels depend largely on congressional action on the farm bill.