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Congress Should Stop Abrogating Its Spending Power and Rein in the USDA Slush Fund

February 19, 2021

Over the past few years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set a terrible precedent by greatly expanding its use of the Agriculture Secretary’s discretionary spending authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act.

From the study:

Over the past few years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set a terrible precedent by greatly expanding its use of the Agriculture Secretary’s discretionary spending authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act.1

 Congress has only exacerbated the problem by passing appropriations language that arguably suggests an after-the-fact blessing of these actions.2

The spending under the Charter Act has vastly expanded in terms of amount, as well as in scope, providing assistance beyond simply helping farmers, while undermining congressional primacy in crafting federal agricultural policy.

To reverse this Congress should, among other reforms:

  • Limit discretionary spending under directly helping farmers and ranchers to address damage caused by unforeseen natural events, such as disasters and disease, not already covered by existing agricultural programs and which constitute emergencies that must be addressed immediately;
  • Prohibit the CCC from being used for special interests beyond farmers and ranchers, including special interests that have an indirect connection to farmers;
  • Allow discretionary power to be used only on programs to address temporary and targeted problems;
  • Require express, specific, authorization by Congress to continue any discretionary spending under the Charter act beyond one year.
Author
Daren Bakst is the Research Fellow in Agricultural Policy at the Heritage Foundation and policy advisor for The Heartland Institute.
daren.bakst@heritage.org @darenbakst
Author
Joshua Sewell, a fifth-generation Missouri native, manages research and outreach on TCS efforts to reform federal agriculture programs, the Army Corps of Engineers, and general government transparency.
josh@taxpayer.net