This is part of a series wrapping up congressional action on the fiscal 1985 appropriations for major domestic agencies.
Deep in the fine print of the Agriculture Department's fiscal 1985 budget are some items sure to bring joy to Michigan, but almost as surely bound to give David A. Stockman, a Michigander himself, conniption fits.
Agriculture's portion of the continuing resolution adopted by Congress last month is $34.2 billion -- that is, about $1 billion more than President Reagan proposed in the budget last winter.
That difference showed up basically in one area of USDA programs, domestic feeding, where Reagan asked for $14.6 billion and Congress appropriated $15.5 billion.
But while the differences between budget request and final appropriation were small in the other major spending categories, what Reagan sees is not necessarily what he got. The reason is that Congress, within each of those categories, rearranged the priorities as it almost always does for what the USDA is supposed to spend. Let's look at the case of cherry dieback. Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, grew up on a farm in cherry country. And he presumably learned that cherry dieback is a loathsome disease, worthy of research to eradicate and control.
But the Reagan budget, prepared by OMB, proposed that USDA's fiscal 1985 spending on cherry dieback research remain at the $107,000 level it hit last year. Congress decided that the effort was worth an additional $65,000, pushing the appropriation to $172,000.
Now remember that cherries come from Michigan. And remember that so does Rep. Bob Traxler, one of the key Democratic members of the House Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture. And don't forget that business about rearranging spending priorities.
Under the special research grant section, $695,000 was proposed for an acid rain study. That was eliminated by the House subcommittee, and added in its place, toting up to almost that amount, was a kitbag of research goodies for farm products from . . . Michigan.
For bean and beet research, $97,000; for a dairy and beef study, $35,000; for blueberry shoestring virus, $96,000; for asparagus yield decline, $100,000; for stone fruit decline, $300,000; $65,000 for cherry dieback. Total: $693,000.
That special research account, by the way, includes a House add-on of $420,000 for an aquaculture program at Stoneville, Miss. The Appropriations chairman, Rep. Jamie L. Whitten, is from Mississippi.
The numbers-juggling on agricultural research crops up just about every year. But in a more intensely political way, it occurred again this year on the soil conservation front. Since 1981, Reagan has proposed deep cuts in the soil conservation programs, and the USDA has moved toward targeting its spending on the areas where erosion problems are worst. Congress has resisted all the way because most members like to spread the money to as many districts as possible.
This time around, the president proposed $475 million for conservation-related programs, and recommended that three programs be zeroed out. Congress, restored the programs, boosted the amount to $820.6 million and ordered a ban on any further targeted spending.