Agricultural organizations reacted to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns' announcement of USDA's 2007 farm bill proposals with a mix of praise, criticism, and caution.
The USDA proposals call for a market-oriented safety net for farmers and follow a theme of saving money consistent with President Bush's goal of eliminating the federal deficit. Johanns says that the proposals would save $10 billion compared to a renewal of the 2002 Farm Bill.
One the proposals aim to saving money, in a move that has drawn more praise than criticism, is to cap farm subsidy eligibility at operations that earn more than $200,000 in adjusted gross income annually, down from the current $2.5 million ceiling.
The American Farm Bureau's reaction was cautious. "We are keeping an open mind about the administration's proposal and intend to give it full consideration," AFBF president Bob Stallman says in a statement on the group's website.
Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., ranking Republican on the Senate Ag Committee, tried to keep the USDA proposal in perspective, since Congress, not the administration, will ultimately draft the bill: "I value the Secretary's recommendations; however, ultimately it is up to Congress to write comprehensive farm policy. Most importantly, this proposal should not be seen as a revision of our offer in the Doha Round."
The National Farmers Union criticized USDA for "encouraging more reliance on direct payments," saying "we've dealt with this system before, and we know it is unsuccessful."
Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group, usually a critic of subsidies, supported the proposals' more equitable distribution of payments, although he says the proposals still would not be enough to level the playing field.
In response to new money for conservation program in the proposals, Scott Faber, Environmental Defense's farm policy campaign director, says "we applaud Secretary Johanns for proposing to increase spending on voluntary USDA conservation programs by $7.8 billion over 10 years."