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Mixed Feelings About USDA Budget

Mixed Feelings About USDA Budget
Reaction to the ag budget finds some positives but also negatives.

Following the release by President Obama of his proposed budget on Monday, the House and Senate Agricultural Committee leaders as well as other agricultural organizations issued their thoughts and feelings about the funding and proposals for agriculture.

"The President's budget demonstrates that neither rural America nor fiscal discipline is a priority for this administration.  Raising taxes on small businesses and ignoring the real drivers of trillion dollar deficits is a failure of leadership," House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said. "The agriculture community remains committed to doing its part in deficit reduction.  However, this proposal shows a lack of perspective and understanding in how agriculture can realistically contribute."

Lucas's counterpart in the Senate, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., says that while some of the cuts made are encouraging, she does not agree with further cuts to crop insurance.

"I have heard loud and clear that strong, effective risk management is the number one priority of farmers and producers across the country," Stabenow said. "Farming is a high risk business and we don't want farmers and other small businesses going under because of a few days of bad weather; it jeopardizes the economy and the safety of our national food supply."

Stabenow says the budget reinforces the need for Congress to pass a strong, fiscally responsible farm bill immediately this year, to provide farmers with the certainty they need to continue being successful.

"By focusing on streamlining and consolidating programs, I'm working to develop a strong bill that tightens programs to make sure we're getting the most out of every dollar but not undercutting critical programs that sustain our national food system," Stabenow said. "The farm bill is a jobs bill, and we must make its immediate passage a top priority."

Outside of Congress, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson expressed concern that the president's budget proposal for FY 2013 would cut agriculture programs by $32 billion over ten years, which is $9 billion than the agreement reached late last year in a bipartisan, bicameral manner by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.

"These budget cuts highlight a reality that we must look for new solutions within the agriculture industry to ensure that farmers and ranchers are protected even as the available funds diminish," Johnson said. "Farmers need a safety net for difficult times when markets collapse and when disaster strikes."

Johnson says NFU appreciates that the proposed budget maintains strong support for natural resource conservation and environmental issues, but is concerned that funding is permanently reduced for many key conservation programs.

"Because we are in a farm bill reauthorization year, this will further exacerbate the budget hole for agriculture programs," Johnson said. "This makes the passage and completion of a farm bill in 2012 an imperative but difficult task for the Congress and the administration."
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