via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.
No farm program payment changes, but some
ag program cuts to be proposed
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The Senate Budget Committee chairman said
he will not propose cuts in U.S. crop subsidies for Fiscal Year 2010 despite
White House proposals to phase out direct payments to some farmers, and
to reduce payment limits beyond levels in the 2008 Farm Bill. Budget Chairman
Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) called any such moves a mistake during a recession.
Senate and House Budget panel members begin work today on a spending blueprint
for the government for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
Where the ag cuts may come from. Conrad on Tuesday
said that he would save $2.5 billion through cuts in two land stewardship
programs, crop insurance subsidies and the Market Access Program (MAP),
which shares the cost of building foreign demand for high-value U.S.
farm exports. Conrad said he would propose cuts in the Environmental
Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which shares the cost of controlling
runoff from fields and feedlots; the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP),
which pays owners to idle fragile land; in the federally subsidized
crop insurance program, and in MAP, authorized at $200 million a year.
Like President Obama's budget proposals, Conrad's plan would cut MAP
by $40 million per year.
Similar approach in House. The House Budget Committee
is also expected to exclude farm subsidy cuts in its package.
Comments: President Barack
Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and other administration officials
who have been targeting farm program payment changes so soon after the
2008 Farm Bill was signed into law are seeing they are not the masters
of the budget process. Farm-state lawmakers who went through the contentious
farm bill debate will succeed -- at least while the U.S. economy is in
recession -- in fending off any changes to farm program payment caps.
But as noted above, Sen. Conrad has targeted agriculture-related cuts
in other program areas, so agriculture will, indeed, have to pay its share
in budget offsets that will surely be an annual exercise over the next
This should put an end to the Obama/Vilsack ill-fated proposal
to phase out over three years direct payments to producers with gross
sales over $500,000. And that silly proposal did not just come from
the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), I am told, as some USDA personnel
were well aware of the proposal and in fact, pushed it.
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