House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., has released the committee's Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Resolution. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla, warns against reading too much into the numbers or policy proposals in either the President's budget or the Ryan budget. Lucas calls them only suggestions.
However, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says the process outlined by the House Republican budget all but guarantees there will be no farm bill this year. The Ryan budget proposes significant cuts in the farm safety net and conservation programs, and slashes spending on nutrition programs. Peterson says that it is appalling that in an attempt to avoid defense cuts the Republican leadership has elected to leave farmers and hungry families hurting.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson echoed those sentiments.
"Once again, we see that Congress is attempting to balance the budget on the backs of rural America," Johnson said. "The proposed cuts to Agriculture spending would severely constrain the ability of the next farm bill to provide policy that protects against yield losses and when markets collapse."
According to Johnson we must learn from the past, such as what happened around the 1996 Farm Bill, when lawmakers saw relatively high farm prices as a reason to remove most of the farm safety net. When prices fell in the late 1990s, billions of dollars were spent to keep farmers on the farm when a modest investment in the 1996 Farm Bill would have prevented the calamity.
Ryan's budget proposes total cuts to farm bill spending of more than $155 billion. Johnson says that a cut of more than $33 billion to the safety net over the next ten years is too much. This is $10 billion more than the agreement reached late last year in a bipartisan, bicameral manner by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.
Ryan's budget proposal would also cut nearly $122.5 billion over the next 10 years by converting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program into block grants. Johnson says cuts to these vital support programs are irresponsible in a time of economic recovery.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., also expressed concerns about the Ryan proposal.
"The budget proposed in the House today is irresponsible and undermines one of the few sectors in our economy that is growing and creating jobs," Stabenow said. "We must reduce the deficit in all areas of the budget, including agriculture, but we must do that in a way that does not hurt the economy. Last year, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees developed bipartisan proposals to consolidate programs and make them more cost-effective, saving billions while still strengthening key priorities to help agriculture continue to grow. This budget as proposed does nothing to strengthen production agriculture. Instead, it will hurt families and America's economy at a time when we need to be creating jobs."