House Republicans are rolling out a plan for agency budget cuts that would decrease the budget of USDA and FDA by $3.2 billion. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration, says his concern with the proposed cut to agriculture is the importance to look at all USDA programs, not just the support programs for farm families.
"I think those support programs continue to work, they continue to encourage risk taking and productivity," Blunt said. "Frankly in a marketplace that's better than anyone expected it to be those programs are all costing less than was estimated."
Blunt says that Congress needs to be sure that they are delivering better results for less money everywhere, including all the programs, making sure they are not only looking at the 25% of the next Farm Bill that directly affects farm families and taking all of the cuts there.
Blunt says that agriculture has been a leader in the economic recovery.
"Agriculture has continued to be the number one thing in virtually every state economy in the country," Blunt said. "One of the reasons that agriculture leads the way is agriculture has adapted to the world-wide marketplace as well if not better than any other sector of the U.S. economy."
Blunt says continuing to encourage commodity production and opening of trade for U.S. agriculture products is very important. He says ratification of the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama is needed quickly for the benefit of American farmers.
"We're losing these markets frankly," Blunt said. "We're losing the Colombian wheat market to Argentina because while they'd rather have our wheat, the Argentineans figured out how to enter into a trade agreement that would let their wheat go in without the tariff barriers that our wheat has. Korea, we continue to need to work to be sure that part of that agreement, if we reach it, allows U.S. beef to go to Korea in ways that are not allowed right now."
As Congress moves forward in 2011, Blunt says the big issues are where the private sector jobs are and why the Federal government is spending more money than ever before. He says that if the government continues to spend at the rate of the country's ability to produce goods and services the economy just won't work as it otherwise would.
"So we've got to get the spending under control and the debt under control," Blunt said. "But also increase more certainty so that people are willing to take a chance. That grain dryer you're thinking about putting in may not make as much sense if you are talking about doubling the utility bill in the next ten years."