Roger Bernard, Farm Journal Policy & Washington Editor
Cuts to U.S. farm programs by limiting payments to what the administration refers to as "wealthy farmers" are again part of the budget proposals from the Obama administration for fiscal year (FY) 2011.
The budget proposal for USDA includes $2.2 billion in savings that would be generated from lowering the payment limit for direct payments and also reducing the levels of adjusted gross income (AGI) that farmers could have and still remain eligible for farm program payments.
Direct payments: The budget plan proposes lowering the payment limit on direct payments to $30,000 per person. That would be a 25% reduction from the current limit of $40,000.
AGI: Budget proposals also are for a $250,000 reduction in the amount of non-farm and farm AGI that producers can have before they are ineligible for farm program payments. The limits proposed in the administration budget are for a cap of $250,000 in non-farm AGI and a $500,000 limit for farm AGI.
Under current law via the 2008 farm bill, the AGI limits were set at $500,000 for non-farm AGI and $750,000 for farm AGI.
Trade: USDA would receive $54 million under the National Export Initiative that President Obama referenced in his State of the Union message last week. Of that, $34.5 million would be for the Foreign Market Development program, $9 million is for specialty crops and $10 million is for general export promotion. The Market Access Program (MAP) would be reduced by 20%.
Conservation: The White House also requested a 25% cut, to $1.2 billion, in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The Conservation Stewardship Program would be cut by roughly $1 million and enrollment held to 12 million acres in fiscal 2011 instead of 12.8 million acres.
But despite these proposals from the administration, there is already opposition to the suggestions from the Hill.
"It is Congress's job to write the annual budget, and based on my conversations with House leadership, no one is interested in making cuts to the farm bill after the battle we just fought to pass it a year and a half ago," says House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).
A similar sentiment is echoed by Senate Ag Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.). "Put simply, the President's proposal picks winners and losers," she states. "By targeting policies that rural America relies upon, this proposal places a disproportionate burden on the backs of farmers and rural communities. While I, too, believe we must reduce the federal deficit, we must all share in this responsibility."