WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- The Agriculture Department budget request of $23 billion in discretionary funding represents a nearly 3 percent dip over current levels, officials said Monday.
The budget request for fiscal year 2013 helps to reduce the federal deficit by $32 billion over 10 years by eliminating direct farm payments, decreasing subsidies to crop insurance companies and better targeting conservation funding, the budget document said.
Secretary Tom Vilsack said his department has supported farmers, ranchers and growers since the economy soured "so that last year they enjoyed record farm income. We have focused on creating jobs and building a foundation for future economic growth, especially in rural America, where unemployment is falling than in other parts of the country."
The 2013 Agriculture Department budget "helps us to continue this progress, supporting robust farm income and good jobs in rural communities," Vilsack said.
The proposal increases the 2012 funding level for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative to $325 million and targets areas key to American scientific leadership -- human nutrition and obesity reduction, food safety, sustainable bioenergy, global food security and climate change.
The proposal would provide $7 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children for low-income and nutritionally at-risk pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5.
Vilsack also said the budget will allow the department to "reduce trade barriers and aggressively promote 'grown in America' products."
"The 2013 budget will allow us to keep our commitment to the customers we serve each day: farmers, ranchers, small businesses and the families that live, work and make their homes in rural America," Vilsack said.