The cuts could mean the disappearance of subsidy payments to rice farmers and other agriculture producers throughout the United States.
Congressman Jeff Landry, who represents District 3, talked to members of the Abbeville-Vermilion Chamber of Commerce touched on the farming cuts for 2013.
Landry said the cuts may come from the Joint Selection Committee on Deficit Reduction. The committee is made up six Democrats (three House and three Senate members) and six Republicans (three House and three Senate members). The Committee is tasked with coming up with a package of at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and revenue increases before Thanksgiving of 2011 and the House and Senate have to vote on it by Dec. 23, 2011.
Landry said one of the areas that may get cut is some of farm bill programs. The cuts could be anywhere from $11 billion to $48 billion.
“We never had an issue where we (Congress) have gone in and slashed agriculture budgets unless we did it through the farm bill,” Landry said. “The farm bill is created to help with the stability in the agriculture market, so you create a plan, a farm bill, that lays out the plan for five years at a time. Because of the power given to the Committee they began looking at hanging fruit. It is easy. We just take it away from the farmers without discussing the impact or if there is a better solution.”
Rice farmers are facing tough times today because of the low price of rice and the large amount being produced in the United States. There are just over three million acres of rice produced in the United States. Vermilion Parish plants 51,000 acres each year - an acreage total that has slowly declined over the years.
County Agent Stuart Gauthier of the LSU Ag Center said if the Committee axes the subsidies, which can average around $200 an acre for rice farmers, more rice farmers will quit planting rice.
“I predict the acreage will decline,” Gauthier said.
Congressman Landry said he is not in favor of the cuts. “The subsidy program is very important to rice farmers,” Landry said.
He said the way to help the farmers is to vote against what the Committee brings to Congress for a vote. But, he said, if you vote against saving farming programs, then the Committee will be looking at cutting money from the defense budget or the medicare program.
“My position is that I am with the rice farmers and I do not want to cut the defense and medicare programs,” Landry said. “But I did not create the Committee that has given us that choice. My no is easy. There are people who have created the committee and the question is how will they vote.”