Congress Budget Includes $3 Billion in Ag Cuts

Compromise includes Senate approach with fewer savings than House and Administration approach.

A deal brokered Thursday regarding the congressional budget resolution uses the Senate approach to tackle agriculture spending cuts rather than the deeper cuts first proposed by the Administration or the House of Representatives.

Voting mostly along party lines, each house narrowly adopted a $2.56 trillion federal budget for 2006 that calls for $40 billion in savings in Medicaid, farm programs and other entitlement programs over the next five years. Agriculture's share is about $3 billion.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., commended Senate Budget Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., for upholding his agreement to fight for agriculture's "fair share," which was in the range of the Senate number, $2.8 billion over 5 years, rather than moving closer to the House number of $5.3 billion.

"Agriculture Committee senators can now work with a more realistic budget amount to reduce spending equitably among the commodity support, conservation and nutrition programs," says Chambliss. "Those proposals that first called for cuts at $7 to $9 billion would have dictated difficult farm bill cuts that would jeopardize farm programs. However, now our Committee can move forward to consider legislative options in making deficit reduction cuts of $3 billion over a 5-year period, while being mindful of farmers, soil and water conservation plans, and families needing food aid."

National Farmers Union President Dave Frederickson urged NFU members to contact their representatives to reject the proposal. He says that rural America is being forced to bare a disproportionate share of the burden of reducing the massive federal deficit, with agriculture spending targeted for $3.0 billion in cuts. "These programs make up a miniscule percentage of total federal spending—less than one percent—yet the budget resolution requires agriculture spending to account for a whopping 8.5% of the total spending reductions," says a NFU statement.

NFU, as many groups claim, says that the changing the farm bill mid-term is "going back on a commitment made to rural America." The statement adds that "since its adoption the 2002 farm bill has cost $15 billion less than projected. Penalizing federal programs that were designed to be fiscally responsible, while failing to address other spending areas that have contributed a far greater share of the federal deficit does not seem like a responsible way to run the government."

By September 16, the Senate Agriculture Committee would need to report the spending changes to the Budget Committee.

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