Cutting Holes in the Farm Safety Net Doesn’t Add Up

March 26, 2009

WASHINGTON (Mar 26, 2009)—The government is on a spending spree, funneling billions to big business and “toxic assets.”  Amazingly, one minute expense—America’s farmers—briefly found their way into the cost-cutting crosshairs when President Obama released his budget proposal.

The outcry over proposed cuts to the farm safety net was fierce.  Powerful lawmakers from both parties and the ag community fired off letters to Congressional Budget Committees demanding that government officials keep their hands off the recently-passed farm bill.

It’s easy to understand this outrage when you really look at the numbers.

  • $1.8 trillion—This year’s record budget deficit as projected by Congressional Budget Office under President Obama’s proposed budget.
  • $787 billion—The economic stimulus package recently passed by Congress.
  • $200 billion—Government spending to date on 400 bank bailouts—spending that will likely increase in coming months.
  • $182.5 billion—The amount spent on AIG bailouts alone, according to the GAO in a March 23 estimate.
  • $980 million—Annual cuts to the farm safety net proposed in the President’s budget.
  • 75%—Percent of America’s food and fiber production that would be adversely affected by these farm safety cuts.

Farm commodity programs represent less than one-quarter of one percent of the federal budget.  No matter how much you slice farm programs, you simply cannot balance the budget on the backs of American farmers and ranchers.

The unpopular cuts proposed by the President would jeopardize the production of three-quarters of the country’s food and fiber supply, yet wouldn’t even free up enough spending to keep AIG afloat for a month or pay a small fraction of the $90 billion in bailout payments to Citigroup and Bank of America.

But what’s most frustrating to farmers is that they already accepted steep cuts in the 2008 farm bill—cuts accepted during a recession, to a farm bill fully paid for and offset—to do their part in deficit reduction.

Saving money and reducing the deficit are things the overwhelming majority of taxpayers would agree to in principle.

But risking the worlds safest and most abundant food supply to cut our nation’s debt by just 0.0089% a year? No, thank you.