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February 21, 2013

Farm Programs Targeted for Budget Cuts

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

The nation’s largest farm organization is all for greater fiscal responsibility, but American Farm Bureau Farm Policy Specialist Mary Kay Thatcher says farmers and ranchers shouldn’t be targets. AFBF’s Johnna Miller has that story.
Miller:A new Democratic proposal to avoid the across-the-board spending cuts, known as “sequestration,” targets two areas for big cuts: the defense budget that helps protect this country and the farm programs that help to feed it. While American Farm Bureau farm policy specialist Mary Kay Thatcher says her organization favors avoiding sequestration, but this is not the way to do it.
Thatcher:We just don’t think that’s right. We’re willing to give our fair share, but to say that only two sectors are going to give all of the money is just unfair.
Miller:Thatcher explains that the plan would cut funding from farm programs called direct payments. The problem is Congress is still trying to write a new farm bill that would likely cut direct payments and use the money to pay for other safety-net and risk-management programs.
Thatcher:We worked long and hard last year to pass a farm bill, but we could never get it on the House floor. Both the bill that passed the House ag committee and the Senate eliminated those direct payments and did indeed turn part of the money toward deficit reduction and part of it towards building a new program with a new adequate safety net. Had we finished, there would be nothing to put on the table right now. Because we didn’t, we’re going to have to suffer.
Miller:Thatcher points out that many parts of the farm bill are designed to help when times are tough.
Thatcher:Our fear is that if you take that much money out of the budget now, you cannot write a farm bill that has an adequate safety net. If you look at just last year and you think about the fact we had the worst drought in this country since the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. The fact is we had no call in this country for ad hoc disaster assistance from Congress because we have a crop insurance program that works pretty darn well. If we don’t maintain that crop insurance program and the safety net and improve it we’ll go right back to having to ask Congress for that assistance every year.
Miller:And that would be bad news for farmers and all those people who need what they grow…food. Johnna Miller, Washington.
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