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Conferees leave safety net intact

House and Senate conferees made no changes in the funding for the 2008 farm bill’s direct payments or export market promotion programs when they agreed on a concurrent budget resolution for fiscal year 2010 Wednesday (April 29).

The resolution, which has since been approved by the House and Senate, turns a deaf ear to Obama administration proposals for eliminating direct payments to farmers with gross sales of more than $500,000 per year and capping farm program payments at $250,000 per individual.

Farm organizations continued to voice their opposition to the administration proposals up to the day House-Senate conference committee members agreed to the concurrent resolution. The groups, which included the USA Rice Federation, American Farm Bureau and 36 other organizations, called the supposed savings in the proposal “illusory.”

“As we noted to you in our letter during consideration of Senate and House versions of the budget resolution, the farm safety net constitutes a de minimis share of the total federal budget (less than 0.25 percent) and the 2008 farm bill itself (16 percent),” the groups said in a new letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Budget Committees.

The groups said the agriculture sector experienced $7.4 billion in cuts in the 2008 farm bill debate despite the preceding farm bill’s safety net already reporting more than $21 billion in savings.

“We believe that additional budget cuts to the farm safety net would seriously undermine an important sector of the U.S. economy, result in job losses and exacerbate the current credit crisis all while having no noticeable effect on the goal of deficit reduction,” they said.

The House is also expected to vote on the resolution this week. If approved, the measure becomes the overall 2010 fiscal plan for the House and Senate.

Although rejected in the budget resolution, the administration proposals are expected to come up again in future legislative battles. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said the administration favors using a system of carbon credit trading to replace the current farm safety net.

The new program could become part of an overhaul of the renewable energy and climate change programs the administration is proposing for introduction in Congress later this year.

Washington observers say the $3.4-trillion budget resolution approved by the conferees and the Democrat-controlled House and Senate could help bring about an overhaul of the health care system among other changes.

The spending plan provides new spending for college loans, early childhood education programs, veterans’ benefits and investments in renewable energy that could mean improved markets for corn and soybeans.


TAGS: Legislative
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