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House deficit reduction bill cuts ag spending $2.7 billion

The House of Representatives approved legislation that would reduce total mandatory spending by $49.99 billion during fiscal years 2006-10. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 includes cuts of $3.7 billion in agriculture programs.

Passage of the bill on a party line vote of 217-215 sets up a conference with Senate members, whose version of the legislation reduces mandatory spending by $35 billion, including cuts to agriculture programs of $3.01 billion over the five years. The conference was to be scheduled after the House and Senate returned from their Thanksgiving recess.

The House version requires USDA to save $1.01 billion by cutting direct payments to row crop producers by 2.5 percent and eliminating the Step 2 program for cotton; $760 million by reducing conservation spending; $446 million by lowering rural development program funding; $620 million by cutting USDA and cooperative Extension research programs; and $796 million in food stamp reductions.

Farm groups including the National Farmers Union said the House package is misguided.

“The House's passage of nearly $4 billion in cuts to programs that benefit rural America is the wrong move at the wrong time,” said President Dave Frederickson. “The representatives' plan will make a bad situation out on the farm even worse.”

Frederickson said farm spending makes up less than 1 percent of the federal budget, yet farmers and ranchers are required to take more than 9 percent of all federal spending reductions.

“Policymakers are placing a disproportionate share of the burden on rural America while proposing tax cuts for the nation's wealthy.”

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