The 2011 Battle of the Ag Budget continues to heat up as attention shifts toward the spending cuts that are expected to be made when the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies begins its deliberations.
On May 31, the House Appropriations Committee passed a $125.5 billion agricultural appropriations bill that would reduce spending by more than $7 billion below what the Obama administration requested for fiscal year 2012. The Republican-controlled House is expected to adopt the bill.
Among the cuts are language that puts a $250,000 adjusted gross income cap on eligibility for farm program payments; a $354-million reduction in research dollars that can be spent by USDA; chopping federal crop insurance program outlays by 59 percent; and a sharp curtailment in conservation and nutrition programs.
Farm organizations have already begun lobbying members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to try to keep those provisions out of the Senate bill.
Meanwhile, Iowa’s three Democratic members of Congress are asking the Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee to revisit spending for crop insurance and on alternative energy programs, a major issue in Iowa where much of the state’s corn crop goes into ethanol production.
The three – Bruce Baley, Leonard Boswell and Dave Loebsack – also asked that funding be restored for the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission that the House Committee stripped out to delay implementation of the Dodd-Frank Finance Reform Law.
“Gas prices are climbing and crippling family budgets all over this country, but Washington politicians are trying to undercut the alternative fuel industry that helps lower gas prices and creates thousands of jobs,” said Braley. “Hard-working families and thousands of good-paying jobs depend on this funding.”
Boswell noted the House Appropriations Committee spending bill pulls funding from renewable energy programs while the federal government continues to provide billions of dollars in subsidies to oil companies.
“The House FY 2012 agriculture appropriations bill is short-sighted, and embodies what happens when appropriators legislate without talking to members of the Agriculture Committee who come from agriculture states and understand what it requires to run a farm and get food to our tables,” said Boswell.
To see a copy of the Braley-Boswell-Loebsack letter to Sens. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, go to http://go.usa.gov/Dm7.
The Iowa Congressmen endorsed the House Committee’s placement of a means test on farm program eligibility, however, noting that more than 30,000 farmers with farm income of $750,000 and off-farm income of $500,000 continue to receive direct payments.
“This is unacceptable, and we encourage you to continue to work on behalf of farmers, ranchers and producers who make under $250,000 adjusted gross income,” the congressmen said. “Maintaining this language secures a safety net by limiting support to only those who need it.