WASHINGTON, March 7, 2012- The House Agriculture Committee approved its Budget Views and Estimates letter today to House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) regarding fiscal year 2013. The committee's main focus for this year is on reauthorizing the Farm Bill, which expires on September 30, 2012.
“We’ve heard loud and clear that crop insurance must be focus in the next farm bill,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said. “We’ve also found consensus around the necessity of simplifying conservation programs.”
The Agriculture Committee is required to submit a letter to the Budget Committee with its views and estimates regarding all matters within its jurisdiction to be set in the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2013.
“Some may argue that the current agriculture economy and farm prices are strong and, therefore, now would be a good time to cut our agriculture policies even further,” states the FY 2013 Budget Views & Estimates letter. “But this conclusion ignores lessons from history. The agriculture economy is highly cyclical. When prices fall, having sound farm policy in place is vital not just for producers but for the entire national economy.”
The letter continued with a summary of the agriculture industry’s contribution to the economy last year, which included $410 billion of goods produced.
“While agriculture would be the 25th largest economy based on the value of goods produced alone if it were its own country, the farm safety net now constitutes less than one quarter of one percent of the federal budget,” states the letter.
Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said the letter illustrates the challenges that lie ahead in writing the next Farm Bill. Both Lucas and Peterson agree that the $23 billion in cuts drafted for the “Super Committee” last fall will serve as a framework for writing the 2012 Farm Bill. Under 2013 sequestration, the committee estimated that cuts to mandatory programs under its jurisdiction would total between $10 and $15 billion.
“A $23 billion cut is more than we would be required to do under sequestration,” Peterson said. “I was willing to accept these cuts because the Chairman and I negotiated with our Senate counterparts, and if the Super Committee were to reach an agreement, agriculture would not face further reductions.”
“We demonstrated we can step up and be fiscally responsible while providing a safety net for America’s farmers and America’s hungry,” Peterson added. “Unfortunately, we will get no credit for this effort and I fear others will now step in and dictate how much we have to cut and tell us how to do it.”
Peterson concluded that the Agriculture Committee members proved that if left alone to do their work, “we will work together to reduce the deficit in a responsible way while continuing to best represent our constituents.”
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