Jeanette Marvin, executive director of New York State Agribusiness Association was in Washington, D.C., in time to see the cherry blossoms bloom. But her real purpose was to join the American Seed Trade Association lobbying event.
Marvin, formerly field editor for American Agriculturist, and other agribusiness representatives met with New York's Senator Charles Schumer, Representative Tom Reed and Senator Kristen Gillibrand. The politicians, she reports, were interested in the association's views on NPDES permitting, the Clean Water Act and Chesapeake Bay regulations.
But the meeting with U.S. Representative Collin Peterson was most revealing. The ranking member of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee advised his NYSABA visitors to not expect the 2012 Farm Bill to be finished on time.
This year's ag budget trimming is likely just a forbearer of cuts to come. Peterson left a strong impression that the Conservation Reserve Program faces change, contending that qualifying for it may be too easy.
Ethanol subsidies still are under fire due to increased fuel demand pressure. Federal crop insurance programs are being further scrutinized. This year's program costs were already trimmed.
And, Peterson, according to Marvin, would like to stop direct payments. That fits with Obama Administration recommendations. The chief one would be $1 billion in cuts over five years to ag subsidies, achieved by lowering the cap on direct payments and tightening eligibility standards.
Keep in mind that roughly 80% of USDA's total 2011 outlays are associated with mandatory programs that provide services required by law. These include most of the nutrition assistance programs, farm commodity programs, export promotion programs and a number of conservation programs. The remaining 20% of outlays are associated with discretionary programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.