A coalition of 113 agriculture organizations wrote the three highest ranking U.S. officials this week to express strong opposition to disproportionate cuts to agriculture programs in the quest to reduce the country’s debt load.
The letter, sent Tuesday to President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), repeated calls made by a broad spectrum of farm groups since the beginning of the year that acknowledge the need to reduce federal spending while emphasizing the need for fairness.
Total agriculture-area spending, including food and nutrition assistance programs, accounts for just over 2 percent of the federal budget. Farm program spending – often the first area to be mentioned in budget cutting discussions – accounts for less than 1/4 of 1 percent of the total federal budget.
Still, agriculture programs have faced a series of cuts in recent years, most recently of $6 billion during the renegotiation of the Standard Reinsurance Agreement between USDA and crop insurers, completed last year.
If these cuts continue, programs that support a stable U.S. food supply, well-managed land and long-term agriculture research investments could be imperiled.
“While our members support efforts to bring down the deficit and debt in an orderly and comprehensive manner, we cannot in good faith support deficit reduction efforts that target U.S. farmers and ranchers and rural America for disproportionately large cuts to the small percentage of the mandatory budget devoted to supporting agriculture,” the letter said.
The groups writing also decried any requirement that cuts be implemented in the coming fiscal year, before the writing of the new farm bill slated for 2012, and said any policy decisions or mandated cuts should be determined by the Congressional committees of jurisdiction.
Members of the House attempted to violate this regular order during this week’s FY2012 agriculture appropriations bill debate, and it has become common practice among those who are inclined to deeply cut into the safety net to discuss cuts to farm programs well before the five-year contract with producers laid out in the 2008 Farm Bill expires.
Wheat groups signing onto the letter included NAWG and NAWG-affiliated state wheat grower organizations in Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Wheat farmers from many of these states are facing dramatic weather challenges this growing season, causing reduced plantings and yields throughout the middle of the country.
The letter coincides with increased work by a bicameral and bipartisan group chaired by Vice President Joe Biden charged with coming up with a long-term plan for deficit reduction, which is necessary to proceed with efforts to raise the debt ceiling. The Biden group met three times this week and will reportedly meet three times next week as well.
The full letter from the ag groups is at http://www.wheatworld.org/wp-content/uploads/budget-broad-ag-coalition-on-debt-deal-cuts-20110614.pdf.