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September 2011

Tightening our Belts, Pulling up by our Bootstraps


Bob Stallman
President
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

The U.S. economy has taken a hit recently. The unemployment rate stands at 9 percent, our country’s credit rating was just downgraded from AAA to AA+, the national debt is at an all-time high and lawmakers can’t seem to agree on the best way to get us out of this financial hole.

The current situation affects all Americans, whether they’re farmers, teachers, wait staff or construction foremen. No one is immune. But, our country has been at the bottom of the financial barrel before and pulled itself up by the bootstraps. With some perseverance, consensus and common sense – we can again.

Make it Meaningful

While the debt ceiling bill that President Obama signed in August will keep our nation moving forward, even harder work lies ahead. It’s now in the hands of the congressional deficit reduction “super committee” to find ways to reduce our annual deficit spending.

Like most Americans, Farm Bureau wants to see a meaningful reduction in our deficit and put the country back on track to fiscal soundness. We support the need for deficit reduction and tackling the nation’s rising debt. Agriculture will do its part toward this end goal, but reductions need to be made wisely. 

It is likely that any comprehensive plan to reduce deficit spending will include cuts in programs that assist farmers, ranchers and communities in rural America. But, as farm bill expenditures in this country represent less than one-half of 1 percent of the federal budget, balancing the budget or resolving the nation’s financial woes can’t be accomplished by focusing on agriculture or by disproportionately cutting agriculture funding.

Reduce Wisely

When it comes to tightening the budget, U.S. farm policy has already led the way. In contrast to other programs, the cost of farm policy has sharply decreased over the past 10 years, is consistently under budget and has been the subject of three separate rounds of cuts in the past six years, totaling roughly $15 billion in savings. Agriculture has always contributed to deficit reduction in the past when called upon.

Farm Bureau will work with the House and Senate agriculture committees as they develop a blueprint for agriculture spending. Our goal will be to retain the integrity of the farm programs that serve America’s farm and ranch families. Our priority is to have enough money left when all is said and done to write a viable farm bill that ensures an effective safety net for America’s farm and ranch families, furthers research, provides conservation measures and secures the nation’s food supply.

Getting back on financial track will require everyone to buckle down on spending. Working together, pulling up those bootstraps, we can do this.