The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed 2015 budget is less than its 2014 budget but still looks to bolster rural development, finance younger farmers, improve food safety, and reduce funding for the Commodity Credit Corporation and some producer insurance premium subsidies.

“All of this is in a context of a challenging time for budgets. We are faced, as everyone knows, with an overall number that Congress has agreed to for the 2015 budget. We are also cognizant of the fact that if things do not change we’ll be hit with significant sequester cuts in 2016. We’re (USDA) focusing all of this work with a reduced workforce that when I became secretary was at 103,000 staff years and is now 98,000 staff years,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, during a conference call on March 4.

All of this “requires us to focus on reform and results and on creating opportunity and investing in innovation … and (this budget) does so by spending less money than last year in both discretionary and mandatory accounts,” he said.

Budget numbers to know

USDA’s budget authority for 2015, or the authority to commit funds of the Federal Treasury which Congress provides, is $146 billion, that’s $12 billion less than in fiscal year 2014.

USDA’s total outlays, or direct cash disbursements from the Federal Treasury to satisfy a valid obligation for 2015 are estimated at $140 billion. Roughly 83 percent of outlays go to mandatory programs required by law. The remaining 17 percent of outlays go to discretionary programs such as WIC, food safety, rural development loans, research and education funding, soil and water conservation, animal and plant health, forest protection and domestic and international marketing assistance.

The 2015 request for discretionary budget authority to fund programs and operating expenses for USDA will be $23 billion, a decrease of about $1 billion below 2014.