The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Stabenow: House budget bill no friend to agriculture


The House-passed budget bill containing $48 billion in cuts to farm programs over 10 years has made it much more difficult to protect agriculture in current deficit reduction negotiations, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today.

The deficit reduction discussions are occurring in the context of the writing of a bill to raise the debt ceiling by August 2. President Obama and congressional leaders are at loggerheads over that effort, but both sides keep saying they will work out some kind of deal so that the United States can continue to pay its bills after that date.

The “unprecedented” cut in agriculture in the House bill “has created a very difficult situation as we negotiate on deficit reduction,” Stabenow told the American Soybean Association, which is holding a legislative conference in Washington this week.

The House-passed budget has not been considered in the Senate and has no chance of becoming congressional policy as written, but the $48 billion cut comes up every day in budget talks, Stabenow said. A presidential commission recommended a $10 billion cut in agriculture spending over 10 years, and the budget developed by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., also recommended a $10 billion cut, Stabenow noted. But she said the bigger House cut has moved the middle ground in agriculture cuts from $10 billion to $15 billion to $30 billion, with some arguing that the cut should be the full $48 billion that the House recommended.

Stabenow said the deep cuts are making it “incredibly difficult” to maintain a proper level of risk management protection for farmers, and appealed to the farmers attending the meeting to tell members of the House and Senate on their Hill visits that the House proposal cuts too much.

“Agriculture needs to send a message with strong unified voice,” she said.

“There is a limit” to the cuts that agriculture can absorb after $4 billion in cuts to crop insurance due to the renegotiation of the crop insurance agreement and the end of earmarks for agricultural research, she added. “It’s wonderful that farming is prosperous now,” she said, but the droughts in the South and the floods in the Midwest show that “you still face the same risk that farmers have always to deal with.”

Stabenow urged the soybean growers to come to her with ideas on what the farm safety net should look like in the future. “We’re going to need some real creativity,” she said.

Responding to a farmer who asked if there was a “great big target” on crop insurance, Stabenow said she felt there was only “a small target,” and one that she believes she has been “pretty successful” in fending off.

She did say there is a big target on direct payments, and that she keeps hearing from farm leaders that they want to “strengthen” crop insurance.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was the principal author of the House 2012 fiscal year budget, which would cut direct payments, crop insurance subsidies and conservation programs by a total of $48 billion.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, have said they do not agree with everything in Ryan’s budget, but gave him credit for putting forth a budget.