In Washington right now it’s all about the money; who needs it, who gets it and who’ll have to give it up.
It looks like farmers could be in the last group. In President Barack Obama’s 2010 budget farmers and ranchers are being asked to take more than $16 billion in cuts to the farm safety net included in the new Farm Bill.
That’s why the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Louisiana Farm Bureau have joined 38 other agricultural and commodity groups in expressing strong opposition to the proposed $16 billion in cuts, much of which would come in the form of direct payments to farmers.
In a letter sent last week to the chairmen and ranking members of the Agriculture and Budget Committees in both the House and the Senate, the broad coalition of farm groups warned the cuts “threaten, once again, to change the rules midstream on American farm and ranch families.”
“This just isn’t acceptable,” said Ronnie Anderson, president of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation. “There are billions of our tax dollars being given away. At least the program for (farm program payments to) farmers hinges on market conditions. Farm program spending has been declining over the years and now the president wants to take another $16 billion away. That’s going to hurt a lot of farmers and the rural communities agriculture supports.”
Under current farm payment guidelines, commodities prices must fall below certain levels before some payments kick in. “These are not wholesale distributions of checks to farmers,” Anderson said.
The letter to members of the House and Senate noted these cuts are being proposed just eight months after the 2008 farm bill was passed, which at the time contained more than $7.6 billion in cuts to the safety net, despite the fact the cost of the provisions over the preceding six years was already $21.8 billion under budget. The proposed cuts in the farm safety net constitute less than one quarter of one percent of the total federal budget and make up just 16 percent of the total farm bill’s cost.
You don’t change the rules in the middle of the game and you don’t change the provisions of a farm bill that was implemented less than a year ago. By the way, the new farm bill had the support of more than 500 nutrition, conservation and farm organizations.
“The ink is barely dry on the new farm bill, and all of the provisions have not yet been fully implemented,” Anderson continued. “The bill must be fully implemented and allowed to work before changes are even considered.”
The coalition letter emphasized many producers are already struggling to understand and comply with confusing, costly and unduly burdensome payment and eligibility rule changes that were unanticipated and far exceed what the farm bill required and Congress intended.
“The proposed budget cuts overlook the fact producers and lenders alike have made long-term business decisions based upon the commitment made by Congress in the five-year farm bill and thus will exacerbate the current credit crisis,” Anderson said.