Agriculture funding is not getting a fair shake in the President’s proposed 2013 budget, according to U.S. farm proponents. In the budget released Monday, President Obama proposed slashing agriculture subsidies by $32 billion over the next decade, just as Congress is getting set to create the new U.S. 2012 Farm Bill.
Obama's plan includes eliminating the $5 billion a year in direct payment to farmers, an idea that has support among U.S. lawmakers, according to Reuters. In negotiations last fall, U.S. Senate and House agriculture committees identified $23 billion in proposed savings over 10 years.
Obama’s proposed 2013 budget is seen by some as unsupportive to agriculture- one of the top performing sectors in a struggling U.S. economy. "The President's budget demonstrates that neither rural America nor fiscal discipline is a priority for this administration,” said Rep. Frank Lucas, R Okla., Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. “Raising taxes on small businesses and ignoring the real drivers of trillion dollar deficits is a failure of leadership.”
Others accuse Obama for ignoring the needs involved in keeping U.S. agriculture viable. “Once again, the Obama Administration has ignored feedback from producers, and a bipartisan majority of the Senate Agriculture Committee all of whom believe that crop insurance is the most effective safety net for agriculture,” said Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan, in a statement. “Rather than listen to those in farm country, the Obama Administration has chosen to recycle old suggestions and raid agriculture to pay for excessive spending elsewhere.”
Other groups say agriculture is bearing more deficit-reduction burden than non-agriculture sectors. “Agriculture has and continues to do more than its fair share toward reducing the federal deficit,” said National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson after Monday’s release of the proposed budget. “Efforts to cut even more by slashing support for family farmers should be directed elsewhere.”
Earlier this year, the USDA announced the closing of 259 facilities across the country due to budget cuts.
“The ‘cut-first, ask questions later’ attitude in Congress is now showing its true costs,” Johnson said. “These budget cuts highlight a reality that we must look for new solutions within the agriculture industry to ensure that farmers and ranchers are protected even as the available funds diminish.”
Obama’s budget cuts not only direct payments but targets other safety net programs. Crop insurance subsidies would be cut by $7.6 billion through 2022, according to Reuters. A disaster-relief fund, scheduled to expire this year, would remain.
Focusing on the crop insurance program is a priority for many farm groups. “We want to make sure that the crop insurance plan… is robust and keeps focused on those risk management tools as a critical part of farmers’ risk management safety net,” said Dale Moore, American Farm Bureau public policy specialist.
Meanwhile, the Senate and House agriculture committees are due to produce a 2012 Farm Bill this year. However, the job is facing increasing difficulty amid election year politics.
Source: Reuters, NFU, Pat Roberts, American Farm Bureau