President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget request sent to Congress today includes a smattering of 2012 Farm Bill proposals, including most prominently the same $32 billion in 10-year farm bill cuts he issued last September and a proposed one-year cut to farm bill conservation programs of $432 million.
NSAC Policy Director Ferd Hoefner offered these comments on the proposal:
“The Obama farm bill budget cutting proposal is not terribly interesting,” said Ferd Hoefner, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s policy director. “It follows the emerging consensus to do away with direct payments but offers no alternative safety net proposal other than renewing a largely discredited and expensive farm disaster program. It also proposes an across-the-board two percent cut to farmers’ crop insurance premium subsidies. Both the commodity payment and crop insurance proposals fail to target the cuts, and thus their impact would be felt most heavily by small and medium-size farms. Neither proposal addresses the critical issue of whether the public should be given assurances that natural resources are protected in return for their large investment in farm production subsidies. Nowhere in the President’s request is any indication given that the farm bill has an important role to play in economic recovery, job creation, and improved public health through renewal of funding for innovative programs that expire at the end of 2012. Frankly, the proposals are relatively lame and not at all progressive. Clearly, all the heavy lifting is left to Congress.”
With respect to FY 2013 farm bill conservation program spending, the Obama budget proposes to layer still further cuts of $432 million on top of the more than $1.25 billion in farm bill conservation cuts enacted as part of the FY 2011 and FY 2012 appropriations bills. All of the proposed cuts would come from working lands conservation programs that help farmers protect natural resources and reward farmers for the environmental benefits they produce. The budget request would cut the Conservation Stewardship Program by 759,632 acres, or approximately $68 million. It would also cut the Environmental Quality Incentives Program by $347 million, the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program by $12 million, and the Agricultural Management Assistance Program by $5 million.
“Once again the President zeroes in on natural resource conservation and environmental protection as the primary farm bill area for immediate reductions through the appropriations process,” said Hoefner. “We urge Congress to reject this proposal and to debate farm bill spending in the farm bill, not through the backdoor in the appropriations bill. Between the backdoor cuts already made in previous appropriations bills and the expected substantial attrition-based reduction in expenditures for the Conservation Reserve Program, conservation programs have already paid more than their full pro rata fair share of any new farm bill cuts. It is time for other titles of the farm bill to pony up.”