Lucas Doesn't Want Mandatory Programs 'Nickeled and Dimed'

Chairman says now is when investment in production agriculture is needed.

Published on: Feb 17, 2011

Whether it's the President's budget proposal for 2012 or the plan House Republicans have to slice billions from current federal spending, agriculture is targeted for some hefty cuts.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, D-Okla., objects to the huge cuts the Obama Administration has proposed in the direct payments and crop insurance programs.

"By the White House's own estimate if Congress would adopt their proposal on direct payments and redefine the adjusted gross income, they say they would save $2.5 billion," Lucas said. "That's a tremendous amount of money and that will come straight out of producer's pockets."

Lucas also says the White House proposes saving over $1.7 billion on crop insurance on top of the hit it took last year. Cuts in conservation including to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program would supposedly save another $1 billion.

Lucas says the federal budget is out of whack and he's all for talking about ways to trim discretionary spending, but he says mandatory programs will be discussed when the 2012 Farm Bill is written. His message is don't nickel and dime the mandatory programs, let the Agriculture Committee work on those in the farm bill.

"If we remove resources from production agriculture at this point then we actually assure more instability in supplies and uncertainty in price for consumers for years to come," Lucas said. "Right now is the time we need to make those investments so we'll have the capacity to meet our needs at home and around the world."

But as Lucas points out, the government is operating under a continuing resolution. Before Congress can even think about the fiscal year 2012 budget he says they have to finalize funding for the remainder of the current fiscal year.

Lucas isn't pleased with all of the cuts in USDA discretionary programs the GOP leadership is talking about. He says a number of farm groups have sent a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee stating that a 22% reduction in that funding is too much. Lucas says it's not easy to define the line between what's acceptable and what isn't, but says agriculture will do its part.