NAWG and more than 35 other agricultural organizations sent a strongly-worded letter to leaders of the Congressional budget and agriculture committees this week, describing in detail their opposition to recent Obama Administration budget proposals.
The letter began with a survey of cuts agriculture programs have already experienced over the past few years:
“This round of cuts is being proposed just eight months after enactment of the 2008 Farm Bill which, at the time, contained more than $7.6 billion in cuts to the safety net despite the fact that the cost of these provisions over the preceding six years was already $21.8 billion under budget. In fact, the safety net provisions singled out for cuts already constitute less than one quarter of one percent of the total federal budget and an ever-shrinking share of total Farm Bill costs, now comprising just 16 percent.”
The letter also noted the slow and confusing implementation process for the 2008 bill, saying, “The proposed cuts come before the Farm Bill is even fully implemented and at a time when producers are struggling to understand and comply with confusing, costly and unduly burdensome payment and eligibility rule changes already being imposed that far exceed what the Farm Bill required, the Congress intended, and producers anticipated.”
Additionally, the groups also emphasized that the proposed budget cuts disregard long-term business decisions made based on 2008 Farm Bill provisions. They also hit farm families working to get credit and continue their operations in tough economic times and undermine the effort to get more crop acres better insured.
A number of efforts to express opposition to the proposals are also underway on Capitol Hill.
In the Senate, Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) are circulating a letter to be sent to Budget Committee leadership, and Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) is circulating one addressed to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. In the House, Reps. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Marion Berry (D-Ark.) are undertaking a similar effort directed toward their Budget leadership.
On Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee adopted its budget views and estimates letter, outlining the Committee’s priorities and budget recommendations for FY2010. In that letter, Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) emphasized the importance of maintaining a consistent safety net, saying changes to in farm bill program benefits “can – and should – wait” until the 2012 bill is written.
Peterson has been quoted in recent days describing the Obama budget proposals as “more than dead on arrival.” Other members have also expressed serious concern with the proposal.
The coalition letter is available at www.wheatworld.org/issues/farmbill
The House Agriculture Committee letter is available at http://agriculture.house.gov/inside/publications.html