How consumers would spend USDA's budget . . .
The public's suggested allocations differ considerably from actual allocations of the USDA budget. In particular, the public allocated much less to food assistance than is spent on the category, as mandated by Congress. The USDA currently spends 65% of its total budget on food assistance (USDA, 2021).
Other categories differ considerably as well. For example, research and education makes up about 2.3% of the 2021 USDA budget while food safety and inspection comprises less than 1% (USDA, 2021).
Other studies have also investigated the public's perceptions of and preferences for USDA spending. Ellison and Lusk (2011) asked consumers the same budget allocation question in 2009; consumers in our 2022 survey preferred to allocate about $10 less, on average, to food safety and inspection and re-allocated those funds across the other budget categories.
The categories that received the largest gains were farm support and rural development. Ellison and Lusk (2011) also found that informing consumers of the actual USDA budget allocations altered their allocations slightly, yet the public's allocations remained far from actual spending. More recently, Lusk and Polzin (2022) asked consumers whether they would like to see more, less, or the same amount of funding for each USDA budget category. In general, over 1/3 of consumers wanted to see more spending for each category, with food safety and inspection receiving the largest share of support for increased spending (53%).
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