President Obama’s jobs proposal released Monday targets agriculture with $33 billion in cuts—$30 billion of that coming from Title I commodity programs and crop insurance and $2.4 billion from conservation.
Obama’s proposal would eliminate direct payments, extend SURE, which currently has no baseline funding, and cuts crop insurance by more than $8 billion. View a fact sheet of the White House’s proposal.
Agriculture Committee leadership in both the House and Senate decried Obama’s proposal, stating agriculture is willing to do its part to reduce the federal deficit but the proposed level of farm cuts need to be made by the Agriculture Committee, which have received input from farmers and others in the agriculture community.
Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and Sent. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, "The President’s policy priorities reveal a lack of knowledge of production agriculture and fail to recognize how wholesale changes to farm policy would impact the people who feed us.”
The leading Republicans note for example, cutting $8 billion from the crop insurance program puts the entire program at risk. “We have heard again and again from producers that crop insurance is the best risk management tool available. In jeopardizing this program, the President turns a deaf ear to America’s farmers,” they said.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee said in an interview, she is “concerned about the president’s proposals on cutting crop insurance and do not support that.”
Tom Zacharias, president of National Crop Insurance Services, said, “The tragic irony in this proposal is that it may hamstring the nation’s primary risk management program that it is already contributing at least $4 billion towards deficit reduction as a result of program changes made last year – and $12 billion overall when changes made in the 2008 Farm Bill are taken into account. This is happening at a time when the industry is providing coverage on approximately 260 million acres at a value of over $110 billion.”
Meanwhile, SURE has not worked as intended for most crops, but the President proposes extending it. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition criticized the President for looking to extend SURE, which they called a “largely failed disaster program,” at a very substantial total cost equaling roughly half of the total savings created by eliminating direct payments. “Disaster assistance should be built into the new safety net at a significantly lower cost, and eliminated as a free-standing program,” NSAC said.
The President only proposes a $2 billion cut, roughly 3%, to conservation despite his claim that conservation spending has increased 500% through the years, Lucas and Roberts said.
And, the President does nothing to address waste, fraud, abuse, and other integrity issues within nutrition programs, which account for 80% of USDA spending.
The Super Committee, which is charged with developing a plan to trim the federal deficit by at least $1.5 trillion before Nov. 23 when it has to kick its plan to the full Congress, is meeting regularly and assembling staff. Undoubtedly, cuts to agriculture are on the table but the Super Committee has not yet indicated how much budget reduction it will require from the agriculture industry.
When asked if Stabenow expected combined work, possibly a combined submission to the Super Committee with recommendations from both ag committees, she said Lucas and her have had many conversations and committee members are working together. However, she said we all share a concern for what we’re seeing. “Frankly, the cuts that came out of the House, the proposals by the President, other proposals that have been made are very concerning,” she noted.
“And we know that to the extent that we can work together and come together on a joint set of ideas that that is definitely in the best interest of agriculture and of the broader economy,” she added.
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