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Groups React to USDA Budget Request

Reactions from agricultural, economic and conservation groups have been lukewarm so far.

After Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced USDA's fiscal year 2008 budget request, agricultural, economic and conservation groups have responded with some praise and more criticism.

The budget estimates USDA expenditures at $89 billion, about the same as 2006 and 2007. American Farm Bureau Federation says that not enough of that money will go towards helping U.S. ag producers and disapproves of USDA's proposal of moving away from the production and price-based safety net and towards a market-based program.

Environmental groups have raised concerns about conservation funding as well. "The President continues to under fund proven and effective initiatives, like the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, effectively ignoring the thousands of landowners who want to participate in these programs and do good things for wildlife on their land," says Jamie Rappaport Clark, executive vice president of Defenders of Wildlife, in a release.

Meanwhile, the Cato Institute says the budget doesn't do enough to restrain spending, saying Bush should make a push now to terminate wasteful federal spending.

The institute's director of budget studies, Stephen Slivinski, did see some positive aspects of the proposal.

"It includes a much-needed proposal to cap agriculture subsidies, the biggest corporate welfare program in the entire federal budget. Such a proposal is vital and welcome as a prelude to what promises to be a bruising battle over the next farm bill," he says.

Johanns stressed USDA's attempt to curb spending in the budget request in keeping with the Administration's goals to balance the budget.

"With the country's budget deficit, as well as some of the baseline issues, we know it's going to be a difficult year for agriculture," Brooks concedes. "But we're always going to ask for more."

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