The minutes are ticking down to a national debt crisis and a solution is needed by Aug. 2 to avert a looming economic nightmare. If lawmakers cannot get a grip on the nation’s out-of-control spending, the United States faces a potential default on its debt obligations.

Investment agency Moody’s threatened again this week to lower the traditionally stellar AAA bond rating of the United States due to the nation’s debt problem. Frankly, it was entirely appropriate to have a company such as Moody’s address the federal government in much the same manner as they would a company that had taken on too much debt.

One of the first effects of a possible credit downgrade would be higher interest rates paid by the U.S. Treasury on any new funds that are borrowed. This could in turn add to mortgage interest rates as well as rates charged for business loans. This would slow down the already fragile economic recovery and have an even greater impact on the agricultural community.

For farmers, it means a likely increase in already strict lender requirements to secure loans. Since large loans are a necessity for most U.S. farming operations, the agriculture sector stands to suffer more due to the nation’s fiscal irresponsibility than the general public. Farmers will need to show more evidence to prove their creditworthiness and risk management strategies while paying higher interest rates in the bargain.

U.S. crop and livestock producers are fighting an uphill battle as lawmakers take for granted the abundant and affordable food produced by U.S. farmers. The lack of progress in implementation of pending Free-Trade agreements and the urge to withdraw farm support programs and agricultural research funding are examples of the myopia resulting from our nation’s addiction to deficit spending.

As our national debt increases, now at $14.3 trillion, so too does our interest payment. In effect, we are borrowing money to pay the interest on the debt, compounding the problem.

Through June of the current fiscal year, paying the interest on the national debt has cost taxpayers more than $380 billion. And that amount will continue to rise as entitlement program spending continues to spiral higher.

Lawmakers have made promises that the country cannot afford and they lack the will to confess their mistake and adopt corrective measures. Instead, the mantra in Washington, D.C. is to raise the debt limit so they can continue borrowing more.

Lawmakers seem oblivious to the fact that people who loan money to us may get gun-shy of buying more of our debt. They seem to think that the pockets of those who finance our debt are bottomless.

Absent the will to balance our budget and live within our means, an economic maelstrom is unavoidable. Granted, in the short-term we may have to increase our debt. Our elected leaders should insist on a balanced budget amendment before the debt ceiling is raised. We must set a date, 2013, or 2015 for example, after which it will be illegal to borrow money except in the case of a national emergency.

Displaying the U.S. resolve to become fiscally responsible will have an enormously positive impact on those who loan us money to buy our debt in the meantime. We must prove to the world that we are capable of living within our means.

There will be pain. There will be sacrifices. There will be hardship. Our leaders must face the facts and chart a course that will restore the nation’s fiscal viability. Instead of ignoring the facts and playing the politics game, we must act now to avoid the rapidly-approaching national calamity.