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"The President's agriculture budget provides important resources for farmers and ranchers, while doing our part to avoid passing on the deficit to our children and grandchildren," said Johanns. "The agriculture budget provides funds to protect America's food supply, improve nutrition and health, conserve and enhance our natural resources and enhance economic opportunities for agricultural producers."

Total U.S. Department of Agriculture expenditures are estimated at about $93 billion in 2007, nearly $3 billion below the 2006 level. Some 77% of expenditures, or $71.3 billion in 2007, will be for mandatory programs that provide services required by law, which include many of the nutrition assistance, commodity, export promotion and conservation programs.

The USDA's discretionary programs account for the remaining 23% of expenditures or $21.5 billion in 2007, a decrease of $1.2 billion from 2006. Discretionary programs include the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program; rural development loans and grants; research and education; soil and water conservation technical assistance; management of National Forests and domestic marketing assistance.

The decrease in expenditures are derived from the proposed budget reductions, which include some legislative changes and an assumption that there will not be a need for emergency disaster assistance funding and other emergency supplemental funds that were needed in 2006.

Johanns said the resulting savings enable the USDA to fund the nation's priorities. Highlights of the FY 2007 budget include:

Bird Flu. The 2007 budget includes $82 million for the USDA to continue to work closely with states in domestic surveillance efforts and to improve preparedness and response capabilities to help stem the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) overseas. Excluding emergency funding in 2006, this is a $66 million increase in avian influenza efforts from 2006. The USDA is a full partner in a government-wide effort to prepare the country for a potential pandemic and the worldwide effort to stop the spread of the virus overseas.

In response to the President's request, Congress provided over $91 million in 2006 for USDA to start efforts to prepare for a potential influenza pandemic. Those funds will be used for international efforts; domestic surveillance of poultry and migratory birds; diagnostics; emergency preparedness and response; and related research.

Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative. The budget proposes $322 million in USDA funding for the multi-agency Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative, which is funded at nearly $540 million government-wide. This initiative began in 2004. Excluding funding for the construction of the National Centers for Animal Health in Ames, Iowa, which was fully funded in 2006, the 2007 budget represents a $127 million increase for the USDA to continue improving the safety and security of America's food supply and agriculture.

Funding increases include: $23 million in increases to strengthen the Food Emergency Response Network and the Regional Diagnostic Network to ensure the capacity to respond quickly to food emergencies and plant and animal diseases and related training; $42 million in increases for research to ensure food safety, develop the means to quickly identify pathogens, develop improved animal vaccines and better understand the genes that provide disease resistance and; $62 million in increases to enhance surveillance and monitoring activities to quickly detect pest and disease threats and to improve response capabilities

Domestic Nutrition Assistance Participation and Funding. The budget fully funds the expected requirements for the USDA's three major nutrition assistance programs -Food Stamps, School Lunch and WIC, which combined account for nearly $55 billion.

WIC participation will grow slowly to 8.2 million participants. The budget proposes $5.4 billion to support this level and includes a $125 million contingency fund, should costs increase beyond current estimates.

School Lunch participation is estimated to reach a record-level 30.9 million children each day. The budget provides a $700 million increase to accommodate this need for a total budget of $13.9 billion. In addition, the budget includes a new proposal for a $300 million contingency fund.

Food Stamp participation is projected to decline by about one million in 2007, to 25.9 million. The budget of $34.8 billion includes resources to fully fund estimated Food Stamp participation and also provides a $3 billion contingency fund should actual costs exceed the estimated level.

USDA programs also continue to help feed those in need around the world. The President's budget proposes nearly $100 million for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. This funding level will support the donation of nearly 80,000 metric tons of commodities and provide nutrition assistance for an estimated 2.5 million women and children.

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