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Will Congress eat the seed needed to sow?
At the beginning of the year, Americans dodged the “fiscal cliff” when President Obama signed into law the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.” This bill delayed the nation’s financial precipice until March 1. According to U.S. Budget Alert, in “fiscal cliff II,” automatic across-the-board spending cuts (sequestration) are now scheduled to take effect on March 1, 2013. See related article, page 1A.
To dodge the impending crisis, an alternate plan has been suggested. The “American Family Economic Protection Act,” sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would:
•Cut $27 billion agriculture spending from the commodity programs under Title 1 of the farm bill, with the elimination of direct payments.
•Reinvest $3.5 billion to pay for a full farm bill extension, including disaster assistance.
•Raise an additional $55 billion by closing two tax dodges and placing a minimum tax on millionaires to counteract the effect of tax loopholes.
•Delay the March 1 automatic budget cuts, also known as sequestration.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition voiced its support of Reid’s bill. In a Feb. 14 press release, the coalition said that “programs that were left out of the farm bill extension portion of the fiscal cliff deal ... were all thrown under the bus in the fiscal cliff deal in order to preserve every last dollar of unneeded, untargeted, and antiquated direct subsidies.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation was initially encouraged that Reid’s $110 billion fiscal policy proposal “would help put our nation on the long road toward greater fiscal responsibility.” Soon, the Farm Bureau spoke against cutting direct payments and joined the American Soybean Association and 10 other national farm groups in opposition to the farm bill component of the fiscal package known as the American Family Economic Protection Act. According to a Feb. 19 American Soybean Association press release, “While we understand the goal of passing legislation to avoid budget sequestration, your proposal takes all of the budget savings from just one section of farm bill.”
The groups compared Reid’s bill to the different versions of the 2012 Farm Bill approved by the U.S. Senate and the House Agriculture Committee, since “both farm bill proposals spread the pain among various titles rather than requiring all of it be shouldered by just one title of the respective bills.”
“Your proposed legislation seriously undermines efforts to advance much needed reforms to meet the long term risk management needs of America’s family farms,” the groups wrote. “While our grower members are prepared to contribute their fair share of cuts to help reduce our nation’s unsustainable deficits, we cannot support a doubling of reductions in commodity title funding. Your proposal would require our farmers to take 10 years of cuts to delay the sequester for only 10 months.”
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman may best sum up the views of those in agriculture watching the congressional actions -- or the lack of action -- regarding sequestration.
“We sincerely hope our lawmakers are not eating the seed needed to sow a viable risk-management program to help secure our nation’s crops and livestock,” Stallman said Feb. 15.
Sequestration also may impact the ag sector -- and the nation’s food supply -- in other ways. See below for more on this.
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