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Sad Day When Those Who Represent Ag Interests Hurt Farmers

Location: Washington, DC


Agriculture Committee Breaks Down on Party Lines to Cut Farm Programs

WASHINGTON, DC - After a contentious mark-up hearing this morning, the House Agriculture Committee today broke down on party lines, with the majority voting to cut key agriculture programs at a time when rural communities need additional support.

"It is a sad day when the very Committee Members that are supposed to represent agriculture interests actually votes to hurt America's farmers and ranchers," said Salazar. "Every Democrat voted to keep the funding, but the majority decided in a partisan way to increase cuts to $3.7 billion, targeting the very backbone of our economy. Now is the time to be helping, not hurting, our farming communities."

Agriculture spending makes up a small percentage of the total federal budget, less than one percent, yet these new cuts call for agriculture spending to account for approximately 9% of federal mandatory spending reductions. However, the Farm Bill has already saved billions of dollars. When the 2002 farm bill was enacted, the estimated total six-year cost of the programs was $113 billion (FY2003-FY2008). Based on current market conditions, the cost for these programs was re-estimated to be $105 billion - a savings of an estimated $8 billion.

Democrats offered several amendments to reject the notion that the Farm Bill should pay for larger deficits. A substitute was offered to recognize that the Farm Bill has achieved billions in savings since 2002, eliminating any need for the Committee to re-open it. Democrats also offered amendments to provide emergency disaster assistance to rural and agricultural communities and to restore nutrition programs and other rural priorities targeted in the bill.

"Family farmers and ranchers shouldn't have to continue paying such a large debt because of a broken budget process," said Salazar. "Spending on agriculture is such a small part of the budget, but it has a huge impact on the long term well being of our communities. These cost-effective, practical programs are being used as a scapegoat for misplaced budget priorities."

Specifically, major changes to Farm Bill programs in the budget bill included: reductions to commodity programs at a time when farmers are facing disaster losses and skyrocketing energy prices, reductions to conservation programs when more than three out of every four farmers seeking to participate in the programs are already turned away, and reductions to the food stamp and child nutrition programs, even as the needs for food assistance grow in the aftermath of disasters.

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