House budget chairman’s proposal takes knife to ag

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Agriculture leaders denounced last week a Republican budget proposal that instructs the House Agriculture Committee to cut a total of $180 billion from programs administered by USDA, including more than $30 billion from farm safety net programs and crop insurance.

The FY2013 proposal from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is similar to his proposal last year and the Obama Administration FY2013 proposal, which would cut $32 billion from farm safety net programs.

Still, as Congressional agriculture leaders struggle to find a path for a 2012 Farm Bill in a very tight budget environment – and an election year – the Ryan budget outline was criticized almost immediately in both chambers.

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said the budget proposal “all but guarantees there will be no farm bill this year,” while Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) called it “irresponsible” and said it “does nothing to strengthen production agriculture.”

Referencing the $23 billion cut proposal put forth by agriculture leaders in both chambers during last year’s super committee process, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Ryan’s counterpart and a long-time agriculture advocate, said, “We had an agreement on what the savings would be out of agriculture and then Congressman Ryan comes along and throws that agreement out the window.”

As the top Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, Chairman Frank Lucas’ (R-Okla.) reaction was the most muted.

“I would caution people about reading too much into the numbers or policy proposals in either the President’s budget or the Ryan budget,” he said in a statement. “They are only suggestions. During our process, both policy and deficit reduction targets will be developed in conjunction with Ranking Member Peterson and Members of the Committee as we write a fiscally responsible Farm Bill that ensures Americans continue to have a safe, affordable and stable food supply.”

The Budget Committee approved Ryan’s overall proposals Wednesday by a 19 to 18 vote on party lines. It is expected to be taken up and approved by the full House next week without Democratic support, after which committees, including the Agriculture Committee, will begin considering how to make suggested cuts. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has previously stated his chamber will not be taking up a budget resolution.

The House Republican proposal is in full at http://budget.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Pathtoprosperity2013.pdf.


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