With the political climate in Washington, D.C., dominated by calls for austerity and debate over the debt ceiling, all aspects of the federal budget are open for reductions, including agriculture. Farm groups and members of Congress have expressed concerns about the depth of cuts targeted at agriculture and how this could impact timing for the 2012 Farm Bill reauthorization.
The House of Representatives recently passed an agriculture appropriations bill with cuts to various initiatives, such as food safety programs, subsidies and nutrition programs. This spending bill, however, is likely to face significant opposition from the Democrats who control the Senate.
Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) intends to introduce legislation this week that would promptly end direct payments to farmers. The House Agriculture Committee has begun oversight hearings to identify priorities and potential areas for budget reductions. Budget negotiators may require specific cuts to agriculture programs, which could require Congress to begin work on the 2012 Farm Bill on an earlier timeline.
Dairy Programs Account for Less Than 1 Percent
Spending for dairy programs, according to the latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, is a very small part, less than 1 percent, of the agriculture budget for commodity support and risk insurance. Even with so little farm bill funding dedicated to dairy, the National Milk Producers Federation has argued that its proposal to limit milk production, called the "Dairy Market Stabilization Program," is necessary to reduce spending and to pay for a new revenue insurance program. IDFA disagrees.
"Right now, the agriculture industry is caught up in the climate of belt-tightening," said Jerry Slominski, IDFA senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy. "Fortunately, our members who recently came to the Washington Conference were in the trenches meeting with representatives and senators, opposing supply control and other negative policies that would push farm support costs onto consumers."
In a sign of things to come, the Senate called off its holiday recess scheduled for this week. It will stay in session, along with the House, to focus on a budget deal to raise the debt ceiling.
For more information, contact Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 220-3553.