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Groups call for long-term ag funding solution

The National Association of Wheat Growers joined more than 30 other agriculture groups in writing the president and leaders in Congress calling for a long-term, comprehensive solution to the federal deficit that will establish budget certainty for federal efforts, like the farm bill.

"Agriculture continues to lead our national economic recovery and contributes to domestic and global food security," the groups told U.S. leaders.

"To ensure this role going forward, we need a rational long-term agreement on raising the debt ceiling that asks agriculture to only contribute reductions proportionate to its share of the federal budget. Doing so will provide the certainty needed to write a strong and effective farm bill."

Saying that "agriculture is prepared to take a proportionate share of budget cuts provided everything is on the table"--and citing recent cuts of $6 billion in crop insurance funding as evidence--the groups called again for agriculture committees in the House and Senate to have control over what cuts are made to farm programs.

The letter added that, "...Sufficient resources are needed to ensure the continued production of food, fiber, feed and fuel, which is the lifeblood of the rural economy. In this time of economic uncertainty and weather-related disasters, the farm bill provides safeguards for farmers and ranchers to consistently provide a safe and stable food supply.

"The farm bill also provides assistance for our nation's most vulnerable people, helps to conserve valuable natural resources, encourages the production of renewable energy, and aids in the economic development of rural communities.

"Any decision to reduce agriculture spending must allow the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to determine how the reductions are made. These Committees have the expertise to best evaluate specific programs and to include any changes in the 2012 farm bill in a manner that does not disrupt long-term commitments reflected in current farm legislation."

While the budget discussions continue, practically all other priorities have temporarily fallen to the wayside.

It was all but confirmed recently that three long-pending free trade agreements, with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, will not be considered until sometime this month.

While not surprising considering the long delay in processing the agreements - they were signed up to four years ago - this is crushing to export-dependent industries, including the wheat industry.

For wheat, the Colombia agreement is particularly vital. A free trade agreement between Colombia and Canada is set to go into effect in mid-August, which would allow Canadian wheat to enter the South American country duty free - a benefit Argentinean wheat already enjoys.

U.S. Wheat Associates has estimated that passing the U.S.-Colombia FTA will help prevent lost sales of $100 million each year in that important and growing market.

The appropriations process also appears to be somewhat on hold. The federal government's fiscal year ends Sept. 30, but the Senate has yet to pass a budget resolution, which provides guidance for appropriators.

For its part, the House has passed a budget resolution that is a non-starter in the Senate, and processed five of 12 appropriations bills, including an agriculture measure.



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