Ag must play a part in cutting debt

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The recent shootings in Tucson, Ariz., which killed six people and critically injured a member of Congress, have heated up the rhetoric on the Tea Party movement in this country.

I was appalled when some people suggested that the Tea Party might be involved. Why does everything have to be politicized in this manner? Why can’t people just accept the fact that it was a single, crazed “nut-job” acting alone?

Personally, I admire the Tea Partiers. They appear to be ordinary Americans who have come together to voice their concerns about runaway government spending. For the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone would oppose that kind of agenda. Shouldn’t we all be concerned about the huge national debt? The national debt recently topped $14 trillion. It should be on everyone’s radar, because it threatens our economic stability, national security and our children’s future.

More people, including those of us in agriculture, need to step up and take leadership on this issue.

It was frustrating to read a Jan. 14 article from The Associated Press entitled, “Farmers call for spending cuts, can’t agree where.” At the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Atlanta, AFBF President Bob Stallman called on delegates to help find solutions to the nation’s economic problems, but the delegates were unable to come up with a clear policy direction.

It’s a familiar mantra: Budget cuts are fine, as long as it’s not my program that is being cut.

I also was frustrated to see newly elected congresswoman Vicki Hartzler (R-Mo.) interviewed by Diane Sawyer of ABC World News. Hartzler’s family farm has been the recipient of federal farm subsidies. When Sawyer asked if she is ready to vote against all farm subsidies, Hartzler stopped short of saying she would, only agreeing that “everything should be on the table.” When another congressman being interviewed at the time — Marlin Strutzman — said he would vote to eliminate farm subsidies, Sawyer asked Hartzler if she agreed with him. Hartzler replied that she is ready “to start the discussion.” So, not a “yes” yet? Sawyer asked. To which Hartzler replied, “No, farmers seem to be targeted unfairly a lot with this particular program. And, I think we need to make sure everything is looked at before we just pick on the farmers.”

Again, we need leadership. We need someone to step up and say it’s time to reduce the federal deficit, regardless of whose sacred cows are at stake.

There really is no other choice.

The new chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), told the Agri-Talk radio network in December that there will be less money available for the 2012 Farm Bill than what was available for the Farm Bill in 2008.

“Everything’s going to be on the table,” he said.

In past columns, we have endorsed the National Milk Producer’s Federation’s Foundation for the Future program. In light of the budget-cutting imperative now facing Washington, D.C., that endorsement appears smarter than ever.

The Foundation for the Future program would set up an insurance program to protect farmers from low margins, such as when feed costs are high and milk prices are low. Basic coverage would be available to all farms, but individual farms could pay more to get additional coverage.

That is the kind of consumer model — farms paying for additional coverage — that the public would understand better than direct payments. And, there are additional mechanisms in the Foundation for the Future program to hold farms accountable and control costs.


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