Lawmakers, Farm groups to White House: Leave Ag Budgets Alone
“Cutting farm programs in the midst of an economic downturn sends the wrong signal to rural America,” noted Republican Senators Saxby Chambliss (GA), Pat Roberts (KS), John Thune (SD), Thad Cochran (MS), Jim Risch (ID), Mike Crapo (ID), Lindsey Graham (SC), Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), and David Vitter (LA).
Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have also expressed opposition to the President’s budget proposal.
The farm bill passed in 2008 by Congress already included more than $7 billion in cuts, according to the senators’ letter, and to slash even more would break a commitment made to “farmers and ranchers who depend on this legislation to make business decisions.”
Lawmakers further explained, “Spending on mandatory farm programs represents only 0.17 percent of the Federal budget and a mere 16 percent of mandatory outlays at the Department of Agriculture.” Therefore, painful cuts for farmers will do little to reduce America’s debt load.
More than 30 farm groups echoed this message in a letter sent to Congress on Tuesday.
That letter—which was led by the USA Rice Federation and signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Crop Insurance Professionals Association, and 31 others—raised several key points:
- The 2008 farm bill, which contains the safety net provisions that face proposed budget cuts, is fiscally responsible and does not add to the nation’s debt.
- During the 2008 farm bill negotiations, safety net eligibility requirements were debated extensively, and farmers make plans for upcoming seasons based on the agreement that was reached.
- The budget proposes billions of dollars in cuts to the federal crop insurance program, which already sustained deep cuts in the 2008 farm bill.
Efforts to fend off budget cuts are unfortunately becoming more commonplace for America’s food, fuel, and fiber producers.
In response to last year’s (FY2010) proposed budget, which also threatened to gut the farm safety net, 17 Senators, 52 House members, and 40 farm organizations sent separate letters demanding that there be no further funding reductions for farmers and ranchers.