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Farm groups attack Senate budget concept

By Larry Dreiling

Fourteen farm organizations have co-signed onto a letter Feb. 19 to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blasting a Senate proposal that would cut $27.5 billion from farm programs over the next decade through elimination of direct payments.

"Your proposed legislation seriously undermines efforts to advance much needed reforms to meet the long-term risk management needs of America's family farmers," the groups said. "While our grower members are prepared to contribute their fair share of cuts to help reduce our nation's unsustainable deficits, we cannot support a doubling of reductions in the commodity title funding."

Groups signing the letter were the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers, National Cotton Council, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Sorghum Producers, National Sunflower Association, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, U.S. Canola Association, U.S. Dry Bean Council, USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, USA Rice Federation, and the Western Peanut Growers Association.

Reid and Senate Democrats have proposed an offset to the sequester cuts set to take place starting March 1. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released a report showing it would face about $2 billion in budget cuts, costing thousands of job furloughs at USDA and other effects if the sequester goes into effect.

The farm groups stated they understood the bill proposed by Reid and other Senate Democrats would restore funding to 24 programs at USDA, including disaster aid for livestock, fruit and vegetable producers. Still, the groups want the Senate Agriculture Committee should make budget decisions on farm programs.

The agricultural groups also questioned the long-term benefits of the budget cuts, noting the bill would only delay the sequestration cuts until next January. The groups also cited that under the Senate's proposal only agriculture and defense would face budget cuts.

Farmers, the letter said, would be forced to take 10 years of cuts to delay sequestration for less than one year.

"That is hard to justify," the ag groups stated. "We also believe it is simply unfair to assign the burden of cost reductions to only two areas of government spending--agriculture and defense.

"Absent a more balanced approach in achieving meaningful deficit reduction savings, the work of the Senate Agriculture Committee to develop an effective program to complement federal crop insurance program and to provide an adequate farm safety net is impossible."

The letter noted the prospect of multi-year crop disasters coupled with projections of sharp declines in commodity prices over the next few years are widely acknowledged as serious threats to the stability of farm income.

"With an appropriate level of resources, more efficient and market-oriented risk management tools can better address the gaps in protection not covered by crop insurance," the groups said. "Conversely, inadequate funding to restructure the farm bill commodity title will almost certainly eliminate options to reform the farm safety net in a long-term fiscally responsible manner."

"We fully recognize the immense challenge before the Congress to reduce the nation's budget deficits and appreciate your efforts and leadership. We urge you to re-evaluate your efforts and carefully consider our concerns as you continue working toward this critically important goal."

Groups signing the letter were the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers, National Cotton Council, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Sorghum Producers, National Sunflower Association, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, U.S. Canola Association, U.S. Dry Bean Council, USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, USA Rice Federation, and the Western Peanut Growers Association.

Larry Dreiling can be reached by phone at 785-628-1117, or by email at ldreiling@aol.com.

Date: 3/4/2013



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