House, White House aim for $32-$35 billion in farm bill cuts

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As time runs out to pass a new U.S. Farm Bill in 2012, the White House and Republicans in the House of Representatives hold surprisingly similar goals about how much to cut spending - roughly from $32 billion to $35 billion.

But getting to a final agreement is proving difficult. Each side agrees to significant cuts to farm subsidies and soil conservation, but they have diametrically different views on food stamps, which the White House refuses to cut.

A final figure for cuts may emerge as part of an agreement on government-wide retrenchment to rein in the federal deficit.

House Republican leaders and the White House continued to squabble on Monday over elements for a broad deficit reduction package.

Farm subsidies have been identified as a clear target for cuts. In a series of interviews broadcast over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner repeatedly cited farm reform as a way to "save a lot of money."

Both sides would eliminate the $5 billion-a-year direct-payment subsidy, also a top target of reformers. And they would reduce funds for conservation.

The near-agreement on the size of cuts is obscured by infighting over funding for food stamps and how broadly to rewrite the farm program, a small-farm activist said on Monday.

"There is some coincidence" in the goal, said Dale Moore of the 6-million-member American Farm Bureau Federation, arising from similar views about agriculture's potential share of cut-backs. But there is sharp disagreement over which programs to cut.

The White House would cut crop subsidies, crop insurance and conservation but not food stamps for the poor. The farm bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee would get half of its $35 billion in savings from food stamps and the rest from crop subsidies and conservation. Some Republicans would cut deeper still into food stamps.

In its proposal, the White House said it would save $7.5 billion on crop insurance over 10 years, $30 billion by ending the direct payment and $2 billion on conservation. It would use some of the savings to pay for disaster-relief programs.

On Monday, House Republican leaders suggested budget cuts patterned on an unsuccessful 2011 budget reform commission on top of automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January. The automatic cuts would trim farm programs by as much as $10 billion. The commission's plan suggested $10 billion in cuts and cited farm subsidy, conservation and export promotion programs as potential targets.

House action on the farm bill stalled during the summer. The Senate passed its bill in mid-June with a lower overall spending cut of $23 billion. It would cut crop subsidy spending by $13 billion over 10 years and reduce the premium subsidy for crop insurance policies purchased by big operators, while paring the food stamp budget by $4 billion.

(Reporting By Charles Abbott; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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WI  |  December, 04, 2012 at 05:43 PM

If only we farmers would realize this is a welfare bill and not a farm bill, we may come to our senses and stop pushing congress to pass this. Since there is very little to do with agriculture in this bill, perhaps they should appropriately name it the Obama Welfare-Care Bill.

so.VT  |  December, 05, 2012 at 08:58 AM

totally stamps should be pert of health & human services

SD  |  December, 04, 2012 at 07:13 PM

Let's operate like other small bussiness america. We shouldn't have to have the american tax payers pay our crop insurance or pay anything other than a consevation program when you have record commidoty prices and all of this is leading to commodity prices to bust! when you look at the pasture land and crp that is being broken up just because of all the handouts to the American farmer. Let's ask for the help when we nead it. Lets adjust the food stamp program and help those that are trying to help themselves.

NM  |  December, 04, 2012 at 09:04 PM

Sounds like they want to bite the hand that feeds them!! Farmers will always provide for their families and friends, food stamp folks will have to hungry!!

Cy Byrd    
Mexico  |  December, 05, 2012 at 10:07 AM

TDI, Obama did not start the Food stamp program. It was started 80 years ago and really came to life 40 years under the direction of Bob Dole, a Republican. check out this Youtube Yes, there are those who abuse it, but the waste here is nothing compared to farm subsidies. Anytime you hang money on a tree, everyone, including the rich, try to pick it. Most of us who farm agree that the Food stamp program needs to be moved to the health and human services....good luck getting that done

December, 05, 2012 at 04:03 PM

do u now what cost a farmer? seed fertilizer machinery chemicals etc. thia stuff all has to be paid for plus their living. they feed the WORLD plus u.

December, 05, 2012 at 04:34 PM

It's hard to find any well used equipment in a farmers yard. When i started farming it was all used. I think there is plenty of money to live off of. Let's be honest and do our share not going over the cliff.

Ed and    
MA  |  December, 07, 2012 at 04:53 AM

Guess you are in the wrong neighborhood....all of our equipment is pretty well run out and run down and any major breakdown will create a financial crisis....this is pretty typical of our country's small dairies, where it is hard to remember a good year....

Ed & Emma    
MA  |  December, 07, 2012 at 05:01 AM

Makes no difference where they fund food's all federal's just that the public should know that the farm bill is not all for farm subsidies....wonder how many dairy farmers are eligible for food stamps...nobody in this country or otherwise should be hungry!!

PA  |  December, 09, 2012 at 06:22 AM

You might be surprised at how many dairy families qualify for food stamps (but don't use them) ... the numbers are staggering on what dairy farm families live on compared to the rest of society. Most people think of farmers as "big" crop farmers. That drives farm programs as well as public sentiment. I am so tired of seeing WIC / food stamp abuse. Obese people use their food stamps in convenience stores to buy subs, chips and hi sugar drinks. Then whip out cash to pay for cigarettes and beer. Food and Nutrition programs need to be moved out of Farm Bill and need to be restructured to be a voucher program for staples - bread, milk, eggs, fresh produce, potatoes, flour, cereal, and some dried goods (beans, rice, etc.). Why should people be using food assistance for expensive (often unhealthy) food choices that are convenient, prepackaged, boxed or fozen meals, etc. On the farm side, farmers don't need to be paid subsidies in years with high net farm income for their enterprise. Some conservation dollars are wasteful - why are we paying for set aside land in areas that are not environmentally sensitive? Conservation funding is important but needs to be prioritized better. Crop insurance benefits the insurance industry most - who lobbied strongest for that - farmers or insurance reps and lawyers? The most important thing in the farm bill is the disaster program. When a disaster (natural or man-made) hits - farmers need assistance to get back on their feet and back to production. Everything in the federal budget (including salaries of feds) should be on the chopping block - but lets be smart and fair about it-cut the waste and abuse. The best cuts would be to decrease the size and operation cost of the fed govt.

SD  |  December, 12, 2012 at 03:35 PM

Does the field of efficiency expert still exist? Maybe we need quite desperately to use some of them to streamline government agencies. Then get fraud experts to find the fraud, waste, and manipulation of ALL 'help' programs from WIC right on through crop subsidies, to government employees, even our elected officials, to assure OUR money is going where truly needed. IMO, many farm programs will still exist.......since Ag producers typically make 1.5 to 3.0% on their personal investment, at best. Are there any other small business, besides agriculture, that DO NOT get any government subsidies????

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