STOWE, Vt., August 1 - Congressman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) told the 28th International Sweetener Symposium today via videoconference that agriculture should not be a scapegoat during the ongoing debt ceiling discussions.
“You can cut agriculture all day long and twice on Sunday and it won’t move the needle on debt and deficits,” he explained. “Washington cannot balance its books on a policy that makes up just one-quarter of 1 percent of the total federal budget.”
Conaway, who chairs the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, said that producers should expect to see tighter budgets. However, he said that he and many other lawmakers firmly believe that agriculture should not be singled out, that any savings should be proportionate to agriculture’s impact on the federal budget and that the Agriculture Committees should determine how any savings are achieved.
“Agriculture has been singled out for $15 billion in cuts over the past six years while the rest of government continued to grow,” he noted. “This happened even though farm policy over the past decade has operated, not only within its budget, but well under budget.  Name another policy in Washington that can say that. Farm policy has a great story to tell as we head into a process that is going to involve some very difficult budget decisions.”
Sugar policy, he said, “has its own good story to tell” because it operates at no cost to taxpayers and has helped ensure adequate and affordable supplies. These successes, according to Conaway, bode well for the policy’s continuation into the future.
“We are very blessed in this country to have our own food and fiber supply,” he concluded. “We are safer and more secure because of it. Our economy is stronger because of it. And, we have more jobs because of agriculture. Agriculture is the one bright spot in an otherwise grim economic picture. We shouldn’t take it for granted, and we certainly shouldn’t gamble with it. We need good farm policy.”
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