Opposition grows to Farm Budget Cuts

By National Association of Wheat Growers

As the budget process tilts into full gear amid ongoing debates about health care and tax extenders, agriculture supporters are making known their opposition to cuts proposed in the Obama Administration’s budget and the Standard Reinsurance Agreement (SRA) renegotiation.

NAWG joined this week a coalition of 35 agricultural groups in writing Budget Committee leaders in the House and Senate to express opposition to the proposed cuts, saying Congress should ensure the government keeps its five-year contract with agricultural producers.

The groups said they did not believe America’s farmers and ranchers should have to bear a disproportionate burden of the cuts made to decrease the federal deficit or offset spending in other areas of USDA’s budget.

They pointed out that the USDA budget proposal actually increases outlays by $4 billion and said the proposal’s provisions seem to “disregard the fact that the 2008 farm bill…was fiscally-responsible and completely offset so as not to add to our country’s deficit.”

Farm safety net programs took a $7.4 billion hit in the 2008 Farm Bill and were the only core provisions to experience a cut. These programs now amount for just 17 percent of USDA spending and less than a quarter of one percent of total federal spending.

Crop insurance spending was included as one of the programs slated for reduction in the President’s budget, as the Administration is assuming additional savings would be achieved through the SRA renegotiation process that is currently underway. This week’s letter reiterated that Congress rejected further crop insurance during the farm bill legislative process.

A very similar message on farm program spending was in a letter nine Republican Senators sent to President Barack Obama Monday, which also voiced opposition to any farm bill cuts, saying it “sends the wrong signal to rural America”.

The letter was spearheaded by Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and reiterated producers groups’ view that the farm bill is a contract with America’s farmers and ranchers that should remain intact to allow producers to plan and to avoid jeopardizing jobs in rural America.

The Senators also voiced opposition to cutting farm programs in order to increase spending in nutrition programs. Though this has not been directly proposed, some believe the cuts proposed to the larger farm safety net track with proposed increases in child nutrition program spending.

Congress is scheduled to complete its budget resolution by April 15, though that timeline may slip.

The full text of the Senators’ letter is available at http://ag.senate.gov/site/chamblissnews.html.

The full text of the agriculture coalition letters is at www.wheatworld.org/farmbill.

Also this week, the Senate finalized a nearly $18 billion bill of jobs incentives and extenders. It is one of two so-called jobs bills that have been winding through the Congressional process over the past few weeks.

Another, more expensive bill including an extension of the biodiesel tax credit and agricultural disaster assistance championed by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) did not see action this week.

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