The House Ag Committee asked budget writers Tuesday to consider the billions of dollars cut from programs under its jurisdiction in recent years when they establish spending targets for fiscal 2012.
In a letter to the Budget Committee outlining its views and estimates for the next budget cycle, the ag panel said it wants to be part of the solution to the nation's fiscal crisis and pledged to conduct an audit or inventory of all policies under its control in preparation for writing the 2012 Farm Bill. Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said every part of the Farm Bill will be on the table.
"Our current budget situation is an opportunity to make our agricultural policy even more efficient while allowing farmers and ranchers continued access to the risk management tools vital to providing the safest, most abundant and affordable food supply in the world," Lucas said. "While streamlining our programs we must be careful not to jeopardize the stability of the agricultural industry, which will play a key role in feeding an estimated 9 billion people by the year 2050. Policy changes if prudent will be carefully considered by this committee and stakeholders."
The letter argues that record-high commodity prices have not made U.S. agriculture any less vulnerable to a future economic downturn, noting that a 51% increase in gross cash income over the past nine years has been met by a 57% increase in cash expenses.
For that reason and others, Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., warned that Committee Democrats would resist disproportionate cuts to mandatory farm programs.
"We have already reduced commodity program spending over the course of several farm bills and with our crop insurance with the SRA process that was done in May," Peterson said. "If every other government program both mandatory and discretionary were reduced the same%age as the Federal Crop Insurance Program it would reduce the deficit $2.3 trillion next ten years."
While agriculture and its related industries constitute 4.6% of U.S. GDP, the farm safety net now constitutes less than 0.0025% of the federal budget and roughly 13% of USDA's budget.
Lucas pointed out that the document also references the committee's intent to pursue aggressive oversight of a number of federal actions, proposed rules and regulations. The letter specifically states that potential rules dealing with Atrazine, spray drift and dust regulation may adversely affect production agriculture and the communities and businesses it supports.