Following are comments from American Farm Bureau Federation President Robert Stallman in response to a congressional initiative in which agriculture bears the majority of budget cuts to avoid sequestration.
“While initially we are encouraged that a new $110 billion fiscal policy proposal from Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would help put our nation on the long road toward greater fiscal responsibility, the details on how he proposes to do so raise strong concerns.
“It appears the lion’s share of budget reductions will come from cuts to agricultural programs that will create much harm in farm country. More than $27.5 billion in net spending reductions are earmarked for farm programs—with all the cuts coming from the elimination of direct payments with no provision to allow use of some of the savings for reinvestment in new safety-net or risk-management concepts.
“The magnitude of these proposed cuts will hamstring the House and Senate Agriculture committees from crafting a farm bill that includes the safety-net and risk-management provisions that our farmers need. We also believe it is very unfair that only the Defense and Agriculture programs are tapped to reduce spending in this bill.
“While last year’s farm bill was leading us toward a path without direct payments, at least that path did include significant reinvestment of some of that funding to other farm programs and crop insurance tools. It is vital that a realistic portion of the proposed funding cuts to agriculture be reinvested to support risk-management programs that are so vital to farmers and ranchers.
"We recognize that the proposal provides for some of the savings to be redirected to extend key disaster programs left in the lurch by the New Year’s tax deal and several other expiring provisions in the farm bill. But in order to address the constant perils of market instability and potential yield loss, farmers need a stable risk-management program.
“We recognize there are many steps on the road toward restoring fiscal responsibility to our federal government and that some will be painful. That pain, however, should be a shared experience and not take such a heavy toll from any one sector.
"Once again, agriculture is being asked to step up to the cutting table and hand over substantially more than its fair share. We sincerely hope our lawmakers are not eating the seed needed to sow a viable risk-management program to help secure our nation’s crops and livestock.”