Grassley’s USDA spending reforms would protect farmers and taxpayers

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is spending billions of dollars each year for programs that Congress never specifically authorized.

Fortunately, Sens. Chuck Grassley, (R-IA.) Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) introduced a bill, the “U.S. Department of Agriculture Spending Accountability Act” (S. 2244), that ensures Congress, and not the USDA, decides how to spend this massive amount of taxpayer dollars.

The funding mechanism used to provide the money for most farm bill programs is known as the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). Each year, the CCC has $30 billion to spend. But in any given year, there is a certain amount of money, recently between $12 and $17 billion, leftover in the CCC that can be used by the agriculture secretary (currently this is Tom Vilsack, former Iowa governor) to fund programs of his creation without congressional approval. The underlying law gives significant discretion to the Secretary on how to spend the money, which makes matters worse because he can often spend money for almost anything he wants.

Historically, past administrations have not taken advantage of this discretionary spending authority. However, starting with the Obama administration, agriculture secretaries have grown more comfortable using the money to get around Congress to fund their preferred programs. The Trump administration took this spending to a new level.

CCC funding was used during the Trump administration to soften the blow to farmers from the administration’s trade war with China. Now, the Biden administration is using this slush fund to encourage farmers to adopt certain agricultural practices in line with Biden’s climate agenda, spending over $3 billion for a program called “Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities” that Congress never authorized.

Setting aside the nature of the programs, the primary issue is that the USDA is going around Congress, which has the lawmaking power under the U.S. Constitution. Legislators, not agency bureaucrats, should be deciding whether to create new multibillion dollar programs. Sen. Grassley was right when he said, “U.S. dollars should only go to programs that have been specifically authorized by Congress …”

Read the full article on The Gazette.