Obama budget draws fire from agriculture

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Agriculture funding is not getting a fair shake in the President’s proposed 2013 budget, according to U.S. farm proponents. In the budget released Monday, President Obama proposed slashing agriculture subsidies by $32 billion over the next decade, just as Congress is getting set to create the new U.S. 2012 Farm Bill.

Obama's plan includes eliminating the $5 billion a year in direct payment to farmers, an idea that has support among U.S. lawmakers, according to Reuters. In negotiations last fall, U.S. Senate and House agriculture committees identified $23 billion in proposed savings over 10 years.

Obama’s proposed 2013 budget is seen by some as unsupportive to agriculture- one of the top performing sectors in a struggling U.S. economy. "The President's budget demonstrates that neither rural America nor fiscal discipline is a priority for this administration,” said Rep. Frank Lucas, R Okla., Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. “Raising taxes on small businesses and ignoring the real drivers of trillion dollar deficits is a failure of leadership.”

Others accuse Obama for ignoring the needs involved in keeping U.S. agriculture viable. “Once again, the Obama Administration has ignored feedback from producers, and a bipartisan majority of the Senate Agriculture Committee all of whom believe that crop insurance is the most effective safety net for agriculture,” said Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan, in a statement. “Rather than listen to those in farm country, the Obama Administration has chosen to recycle old suggestions and raid agriculture to pay for excessive spending elsewhere.”

Other groups say agriculture is bearing more deficit-reduction burden than non-agriculture sectors. “Agriculture has and continues to do more than its fair share toward reducing the federal deficit,” said National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson after Monday’s release of the proposed budget. “Efforts to cut even more by slashing support for family farmers should be directed elsewhere.”

Earlier this year, the USDA announced the closing of 259 facilities across the country due to budget cuts.

“The ‘cut-first, ask questions later’ attitude in Congress is now showing its true costs,” Johnson said. “These budget cuts highlight a reality that we must look for new solutions within the agriculture industry to ensure that farmers and ranchers are protected even as the available funds diminish.” 

Obama’s budget cuts not only direct payments but targets other safety net programs. Crop insurance subsidies would be cut by $7.6 billion through 2022, according to Reuters. A disaster-relief fund, scheduled to expire this year, would remain.

Focusing on the crop insurance program is a priority for many farm groups. “We want to make sure that the crop insurance plan… is robust and keeps focused on those risk management tools as a critical part of farmers’ risk management safety net,” said Dale Moore, American Farm Bureau public policy specialist.

Meanwhile, the Senate and House agriculture committees are due to produce a 2012 Farm Bill this year. However, the job is facing increasing difficulty amid election year politics.

Source: Reuters, NFU, Pat Roberts, American Farm Bureau

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Dr. William Rannells    
Ohio  |  February, 15, 2012 at 09:18 AM

First I am not totally an Obama fan. However I am not a fan of support programs that are causing economic hardship on others. When support payments are used to purchase more properties rather than support the price to prevent hardship, I draw the line. Support payments are now used to purchase land for larger agricultural ventures and not to prevent bankrupcy thus driving land prices beyond that which a young farmer can afford. Look at the whole picture and relate it to the current economic situation. Does trhe support payment help or just drive someone to buy another farmer out and then there are more unemployed. Of course the farmer then has to purchase larger equipment and in the process utilize more help? Not the case in the real world. Overall agriculture is losing the power of the vote because there are fewer farm orientated people involved in agriculture as a result to some degree of government intervention with support type incentives. The farmer is being spoiled in the name progress.

Ohio  |  February, 15, 2012 at 10:56 AM

I do not use my agriculture payments to purchase new land. I utilize the income to purchase fertilizer, seed, fuel and labor to try and make ends meet. The cut will be a hardship but I will try to cut expenses elsewhere which means family living expenses and I already think I live cheap.

Cy Byrd    
Ames, IA  |  February, 15, 2012 at 11:01 AM

Suck it up. The direct payments have been government cash give away to farmers who do not need it. If you can't make it get out . Cy

Illinois  |  February, 16, 2012 at 01:31 PM

Cy from Ames, IA, of all places I would think you understand. It's not a give-away. Farmers really needed that for sometime. Just in recent years the economy has been decent for them. Decent. Not outstanding.

MN  |  February, 15, 2012 at 04:39 PM

What is the secret of getting these large payments. I farm 96 tillable acres and my da almost covers one of my two property tax bills. There is nothing left to pay the principle , seed, fertilizer, equipment, etc. In my eyes a 1000 acres is a big farmer

Bill Stanley    
Texas  |  February, 16, 2012 at 07:34 AM

Almost every industry wants preferential treatment over the others. That is a big reason why we have a national debt over $15 trillion and it is increasing faster than our GDP. Drastically reduce all industry subsidies. www.newsandopinions.net

Geneseo, IL  |  February, 16, 2012 at 03:35 PM

Anyone who has studied economics or has paid attention for the last 15 years knows that the direct payments have been capitalized into land values and rents. They have only accelerated the consolodation of big farms and have not helped the small "family farmer." Getting rid of them will be a good thing.

South Dakota  |  February, 16, 2012 at 08:08 PM

USDA programs (payments) for crops are driving cattle producers off the land. Native grasslands are being ripped up for crop production due in part to USDA payments. Eliminating direct payments will help establish a fairer competition for land use between crop and cattle production.

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