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Democrats scold Ryan plan, commodity groups look for common ground

Reactions to the Ryan budget proposal wide-ranging. Plan calls for over $30 billion in farm program cuts over the next decade. Senate Democrats claim plan not only threatens the writing of a 2012 farm bill but also increases chances of a government shutdown later this year.

Reaction to the Ryan budget proposal — which calls for over $30 billion in farm program cuts over the next decade — began coming in from legislators, commodity and farm organizations shortly after it was released on Tuesday.

While farm groups typically found at least some of the proposal praise-worthy, Senate Democrats have been much less hospitable, claiming the Republican’s plan not only threatens the writing of a 2012 farm bill but also increases chances of a government shutdown later this year.

For more on the Ryan proposal, see here.

Ryan’s plan would focus “primarily on direct payments and crop insurance,” said an American Soybean Association statement. “Additionally, the chairman’s budget includes a dramatic transformation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program, which would cut $123 billion from the program and shift it to a state-run block grant program.”

Danny Murphy, ASA first vice president and a soybean farmer from Canton, Miss., said while the proposal may lead to “faster consideration of a potential farm bill” there are potential pitfalls. “The cuts that Chairman Ryan proposes … are significantly higher than those agreed upon by House and Senate agriculture committee leadership during the ‘super committee’ process last fall, and that concerns us. Especially worrisome is (Ryan’s) emphasis on the federal crop insurance program as an area for reduction. Crop insurance serves as the main safety net for America’s farmers, and its integrity must be protected.”

Murphy is pleased with Ryan’s emphasis on developing domestic energy sources, especially in light of the “sustained success of the American biodiesel industry, one that created 50,000 jobs and saw a record production of 1.1 billion gallons last year, and remains the only advanced biofuel currently produced on a commercial scale across the U.S. The biodiesel industry creates jobs, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and bolsters our energy security, all while displacing imported diesel with clean, American-made fuel.”

Murphy said the ASA has “long maintained that we are ready and willing to accept our share of cuts, provided that those cuts are proportionate to other industries. We will continue that cooperative spirit in the interest of getting our nation’s fiscal house in order. However, we encourage Chairman Ryan to remember that the record farm productivity that he cites in his budget is a direct result of policies that help those farms to grow.”

Meanwhile, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the budget proposal “is irresponsible and undermines one of the few sectors in our economy that is growing and creating jobs. We must reduce the deficit in all areas of the budget, including agriculture, but we must do that in a way that does not hurt the economy.

“Last year, the House and Senate agriculture committees developed bipartisan proposals to consolidate programs and make them more cost-effective, saving billions while still strengthening key priorities to help agriculture continue to grow. This budget as proposed does nothing to strengthen production agriculture. Instead, it will hurt families and America’s economy at a time when we need to be creating jobs.”

North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad, Senate Budget Committee chairman, was equally scathing in his assessment of Ryan’s plan, labeling it “the same partisan and ideological thinking we saw from House Republicans last year. He proposes large tax cuts for the wealthiest and corporations, financed by deep cuts in health care and other programs that help those most in need. His plan is unbalanced and unfair, and it is wrong for America.”

Conrad said Ryan is “walking away from the discretionary spending levels agreed to by Democrats and Republicans in last summer’s Budget Control Act. Instead, he calls for significant additional cuts in education, energy, infrastructure, and other areas vital to the country’s economic growth. His action is a breach of faith that will increase the likelihood of an unnecessary and harmful government shutdown later this year....

“The fact is the budget for the next fiscal year is already in place. The Budget Control Act provided the key components of the budget for 2012 and 2013, including setting discretionary spending limits and providing the tools to enforce those limits. It is the law of the land....

“What is still needed is for us to come together on a long-term deficit reduction plan. And that long-term plan must be comprehensive and balanced, addressing both spending and revenue. That is the only way we can truly put the nation back on a sound long-term fiscal course.”

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