The Senate Majority’s so-called “balanced” proposal to avoid sequestration includes $27.5 billion in cuts to agriculture programs that would leave a gaping hole in our nation’s food safety net.
Arkansas Senator John Boozman, a member of the Agriculture Committee, rejected this proposal, calling it a “food fight with rural America.”
“Our food safety net is just that, a delicate balance of interwoven risk management programs that protect the entirety of our food supply in all regions of the country,” Boozman said. “The wholesale elimination of part of that safety net in the absence of comprehensive reform in the Farm Bill is irresponsible.”
The Senate and House Agriculture Committee passed versions of the Farm Bill in 2012 included the expiration of the Direct Payment program, but filled the gaps created by that cut with updated tools that meet today’s risk management needs.
“Our producers know that we need to transition to more responsive, market-based risk management tools and stand prepared to help play a role in getting our fiscal house in order,” Boozman said. “Only cutting Direct Payments and ignoring other savings and program interactions in the Senate and House Farm Bills is anything but balanced.”
“Some in the Senate Majority continue to imply that Direct Payments are given to folks who don’t need them. To be clear, Direct Payments have been incredibly important to our farmers in Arkansas as they have suffered through the drought that has rippled through our nation’s entire agriculture economy. They have been important to our growers who have suffered significant increases in input costs, poor yields, or market interruptions due to low river levels on the Mississippi River and they have been incredibly important in securing credit, including this spring as growers are making planting decisions and arranging financing. Our producers are ready to contribute to deficit reduction—including the ultimate elimination of Direct Payments—but not by singling out one particular program in some shady back-room deal. We need a responsible and balanced process that reforms our safety net in the context of a five-year Farm Bill that includes choices that protect all crops and regions, and we should begin working on that right away,” Boozman said.
The House has passed two bills to replace sequestration with more responsible spending reforms. The Senate Majority Leader has not allowed a vote on either piece of legislation. Sequestration will take effect on March 1, 2013.