Around 350,000 farmers will lose a portion of some payments they received earlier from USDA, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said today. The reductions total about $151 million primarily in three programs: Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC), Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE) and Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). Because most of those farmers also receive annual direct payments from USDA, the cut will be taken out of the checks they are due to receive this fall, Vilsack said today following an address at the Agribusiness Club. However, not all of the impacted farmers will receive direct payments this October. In the past, producers were put on a credit ledger with future payments reduced.
The furloughing of meat inspectors due to the across-the-board, sequester cuts was another topic Vilsack addressed. He noted the pending amendment by Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) via the Senate's version of the FY 2013 continuing resolution bill to shift $55 million within USDA's budget to avoid the meat inspector furloughs. "The fact that we have several senators who are offering an amendment to provide us the resources or the flexibility to be able to respond to the food inspector issue is an acknowledgment now that we indeed do not have any options under sequester. My hope is that gets done. If it does not, come mid-July we will furlough meat inspectors," Vilsack said.
PERSPECTIVE: Vilsack appears to be using his discetionary authority under the interchange authority to modify the sequester-impacted payments to farmers already made, but he has not used such flexibility in areas such as meat and poultry inspection.