Billions in cuts to U.S. food aid proposed

WASHINGTON — House Republicans are targeting domestic nutrition programs and international food assistance as they try to control spending in next year's budget.

In a bill released Monday, Republicans proposed cutting $832 million — 11 percent — from this year's budget for the Women, Infants and Children program, which provides food for low-income mothers and children.

The 2012 budget proposal for food and farm programs also includes a decrease of almost $457 million, or 23 percent, from international food assistance.

The legislation would cut $2 billion from food stamps, or about 1.3 percent of the program's $67 billion budget.

Republicans who wrote the bill said the cuts in domestic food programs are taken from excess dollars in those accounts, and participants won't see a decrease in services.

Domestic nutrition programs are mined for dollars in tight budget times because they often have extra money sitting in their accounts. Money is allocated for the programs based on projections of need and food costs, and those needs are sometimes overestimated.

Hunger advocates have warned against stripping those programs of those reserves. Two analysts from the liberal research and advocacy group Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, ZoJe Neuberger and Robert Greenstein, said Monday that the cuts could mean turning away as many as 475,000 people from the Women, Infants and Children program if food prices continue to rise.

Almost 9 million low-income mothers and children participate in the WIC program, which provides food, health care referrals and nutrition education.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said the GOP budget "rolls back years of progress."

"This budget threatens the health and security of American families, while asking the most of low-income seniors and the most vulnerable among us," she said.

Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations agriculture subcommittee, said the cuts would "root out waste and duplication."

"Where they have strayed from their core mission, we rein in agencies so they may better focus on the responsibilities for which they are intended," Kingston said.

The bill would cut about 10 percent of the Food and Drug Administration's $2.5 billion budget, with fees charged to industry for regulation potentially making up some of that difference. The legislation also cuts rural development programs, rural housing programs and agricultural research programs administered by the Agriculture Department.