Cuts to Farm Programs Included in Debt Commission Draft

November 12, 2010 Bookmark and Share

The co-chairmen of a debt commission tasked with addressing the United States’ massive and growing budget deficit released a draft proposal this week that would cut $3 billion per year from farm program spending as part of an effort to achieve nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020.

The group, known formally as the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, was established in February to make recommendations by Dec. 1. The 18-member panel is bipartisan, with a super majority of 14 votes needed for any proposal from it to be approved.

This week’s draft is seen as a play by the co-chairmen, former Senator Alan Simpson, a Republican, and President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff Erskine Bowles, to encourage the group’s members to take everything into consideration and work quickly toward final proposals before the deadline in just a few weeks.

Touching virtually every sacred cow said to exist in federal policy, the draft was pilloried by observers from across the political spectrum who are loathe to accept even the suggestion of cuts to defense spending, Social Security, mortgage interest deductions and other big-ticket items.

Suggested cuts were also outlined for farm programs, which represent a combined total of just one third of one percent of total federal spending. The draft proposal suggests that Congress “reduce farm subsidies by $3 billion per year by reducing direct payments and other subsidies, Conservation Security Program funding, and funding for the Market Access Program”.

While the three programs are among the few solid sources of agriculture funding still available in the federal budget – and thus constantly subject to calls for budget cuts – they are also among the most important to agricultural producers and America’s rural economy.

The direct payment was NAWG’s top priority in the 2008 Farm Bill debate because it is predictable, reliable and the most trade-friendly farm program currently on the books. The Conservation Security Program helps farmers working more than 12 million acres of land maintain conservation efforts or implement new ones. And the Market Access Program (MAP) serves as the cornerstone of international agricultural market development for U.S. agricultural commodities, including wheat. A recent study shows market development activities for wheat undertaken with MAP and producer dollars return $115 to the economy for every $1 spent.

The proposed cuts are far from final. The full commission has yet to adopt the proposal, and if approved, the commission report will be transmitted to Congress for consideration.

Throughout the process, NAWG, U.S. Wheat Associates and coalition partners will work to ensure the best possible program outcomes for producers.

The full proposal is available directly at http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/sites/fiscalcommission.gov/files/documents/CoChair_Draft.pdf.