Eleven of 18 members of President Barack Obama’s national debt commission signaled at the commission’s final meeting Friday they would have voted for the proposal, but no formal vote was taken and the commission disbanded after the meeting, leaving action on its concepts to Congress.
The group’s final report, ominously titled, “The Moment of Truth”, was released Wednesday. Like a discussion draft released a few weeks ago by the Commission’s co-chairmen, it included suggestions to cut discretionary and mandatory spending and undertake tax, Social Security and health care spending reform, with the goal of achieving nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020.
Proposed cuts to agriculture spending consumed just three paragraphs of the 66-page final report and, importantly, recommended relying on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to make final decisions.
The report asked for $15 billion in reductions in mandatory agriculture spending from FY2012 to FY2020, with $10 billion dedicated to deficit reduction and $5 billion redirected to extending “the Agriculture disaster fund program”, presumably the SURE program, to mitigate the need for future ad hoc disaster funding.
The Commission recommended savings come from across mandatory agriculture programs with specific suggestions including “direct payments when prices exceed the cost of production or other reductions in subsidies”; conservation programs including the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP); and the Market Access Program (MAP).
These recommendations were somewhat less extreme in cost and direction than the co-chairmen’s draft, which suggested a cut of $3 billion per year from the direct payment program, CSP and MAP.
While those 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.
It is unclear if Congress will take up all or some of the report’s recommendations, and NAWG, U.S. Wheat Associates and coalition partners will work to ensure the best possible program outcomes for producers throughout all further debt-reduction discussions.
The full Commission report is available online at http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/news/moment-truth-report-national-commission-fiscal-responsibility-and-reform.