More than 130 organizations spanning the breadth of the agricultural spectrum – from small community based groups to the largest commodity trade associations – informed President Obama and Congressional leaders of their strong opposition to efforts to balance the federal budget on the backs of farmers and rural America.
“We are extraordinarily concerned about the depth and timing of cuts to agricultural policies reportedly being considered for inclusion in legislation to increase the debt limit,” noted the groups in a June 14 letter to the officials.
According to news reports, agriculture policy could be forced to shoulder three times or more of its share of the deficit reduction after already giving $15 billion over the past six years and in the upcoming budget. All told, farm policy was cut sharply in 2006, 2008 and again last year—making agriculture among the only sectors to make a sacrifice in the name of deficit reduction.
Farm organizations and farmers themselves have openly expressed a desire to have the nation’s budget balanced. But the signatories also made clear that they will stand firmly against any more cuts to farm policy not made within the context of the overall budget and the nation’s need to balance its books.
“We will oppose any cuts to farm policy that are proposed outside the context of a comprehensive agreement involving all federal spending that seriously addresses the fiscal crisis our nation faces,” they add.
The broad coalition also put their elected officials on notice that there will be strong opposition to the requirement that cuts be implemented for 2012, effectively reneging on commitments already made to and relied upon by producers and their lenders under the five-year 2008 farm bill.
“Furthermore, we strongly believe that any policy decisions or mandated cuts ought to be determined by the congressional committees of jurisdiction and made in the context of the 2012 farm bill,” the letter states.
Farm leaders have repeatedly pointed out that current record droughts accompanied by record flooding and other natural disasters this year clearly illustrate the risks producers face, and highlights the need for a consistent and viable farm policy that is currently in serious jeopardy if cuts are as deep as news reports suggest. Additional cuts to farm policy could render it incapable of responding should natural disasters or market crashes strike.
Several months ago, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City credited small towns, specifically farming communities, with leading the country’s recession recovery in 2010. Many fear that gutting farm policy would y risk an already troubled recovery from the recession if weather conditions persist or markets collapse.
Recent reports in the National Journal detail how Congress has underestimated the real cost of natural disasters in the upcoming budget and this will necessitate pumping more dollars to address this deficiency later. In the past, this kind of response has resulted in very expensive disaster packages that actually cost more than preventative measures would have.
Agriculture is clearly standing with one voice and urging its elected officials to protect America’s farm and ranch families and rural America by safe-guarding the essential risk management tools provided by farm policy and not weakening them any further.
As Larry Combest, the former chairman of both the House Intelligence and Agriculture Committees, wrote in a recent letter to the New York Times: “Against all the misrepresentations about farm policy, I have some sobering news: if the bottom falls out on agriculture, existing farm policy is already too weakened to prevent a crisis.”
Signatories include: Agricultural Retailers Association; American Agri-Women; American Association of Crop Insurers; American Farmland Trust; American Soybean Association; American Sugar Alliance; Association of Equipment Manufacturers; Crop Insurance Professionals Association; Farm Credit Council; Growth Energy; Independent Community Bankers Association; Independent Insurance Agents ad Brokers of America; Minnesota Corn Growers Association; National Association of Wheat Growers; National Barley Growers Association; National Corn Growers Association; National Cotton Council; National Council of Farmer Cooperatives; National Farmers Union; National Milk Producers Federation; National Rural Electric Cooperative Association;National Sorghum Producers; Renewable Fuels Association; U.S. Rice Producers Association; USA Rice Federation; and United Egg Producers.