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Congressional ag leaders all stand against crop insurance cuts

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., today joined other House and Senate agriculture leaders in criticizing President Barack Obama’s budget proposal to cut crop insurance, but each took a different tone in commenting on the overall proposal.

The Obama proposal would cut $7.6 billion over 10 years in crop insurance spending by reducing producer premium subsidies and making other changes to the program.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
“We’re not going to do that,” Peterson said in a telephone interview.

Noting that cuts had already been made in crop insurance in the 2008 farm bill and in the administration’s renegotiation of the standard reinsurance agreement, Peterson said that Congress won’t know the impact of those cuts for another year.

“All the farm groups say that’s the most important program,” Peterson added.

Obama’s larger agriculture proposal would cut a total of $32 billion over 10 years, including the elimination of direct payments and the crop insurance cut.

“It's nothing new,” Peterson said. “It's not helpful in terms of writing a farm bill.”

“There is nothing that requires us to cut anything out of the baseline,” he added. “We can legally spend the whole baseline.”

Peterson said some Republicans want to cut more than the $23 billion over 10 years that was in the proposal sent to the failed supercommittee on budget reduction, and that Obama’s budget “gives them an excuse.”

“What drives me crazy,” Peterson added, is that while the Obama administration officials “want to get the economy going,” they have proposed cuts to the only part of the economy that is doing well.

Peterson said he thought it was unwise for the administration to cut the relatively small amount of money spent on agriculture in order to use the money for less proven economic development efforts.

The money that remains in the farm bill for farmers “is not so much used for farmers but for financial institutions” to be able to give them financing, Peterson said.

It’s unclear how the proposed cuts might affect agriculture, he said, and might lead to consolidation, which has never been a goal of Democrats in agriculture policy.

The proposed Republican cuts are “all over the map,” he said, from cutting food stamps to cutting farm programs and giving a tax cut.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said in a statement Monday that Obama’s budget shows he is not putting a priority on either rural America or fiscal discipline.

“Raising taxes on small businesses and ignoring the real drivers of trillion dollar deficits is a failure of leadership,” Lucas said.

Obama’s proposal to cut crop insurance, Lucas said, “threatens the integrity of the program itself.”

“And, he ignores other areas for savings such as streamlining or eliminating duplicative programs in conservation, or closing loopholes in nutrition spending,” Lucas added. “Nutrition spending comprises 80 percent of the agriculture baseline and there is bipartisan support in Congress to save billions by eliminating loopholes, but not one penny is cut in the president’s budget.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., also took a stand against crop insurance cuts.

“I am encouraged the president agrees that direct payments are an indefensible program of the past, but do not agree with further cuts to crop insurance, which is a critical risk management tool,” Stabenow said. “This budget reinforces the need for Congress to pass a strong, fiscally responsible farm bill immediately this year, to provide farmers with the certainty they need to continue being successful.”

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
Senate Agriculture ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said Obama has not listened to those who support the crop insurance program.

“Once again, the Obama administration has ignored feedback from producers, and a bipartisan majority of the Senate Agriculture Committee, all of whom believe that crop insurance is the most effective safety net for agriculture,” Roberts said.

“Rather than listen to those in farm country, the Obama administration has chosen to recycle old suggestions and raid Agriculture to pay for excessive spending elsewhere,” he said.

Roberts said he was looking forward to working with Stabenow to pass a new farm bill this year.

“It is through the committee’s careful and open consideration of how to improve our nation’s ability to meet critical global demand for food that will decide funding priorities,” Roberts said, “not through a budget proposal that according to Senate Majority Leader [Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] will not even be considered in the Senate.”