by Philip Brasher (DesMoines Register)
EXCERPT: A $10 billion cut in farm spending included in a deficit commission plan could be a taste of what’s to come for agricultural subsidies. Sen. Kent Conrad, the North Dakota Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, acknowledged Friday that he played a role in drafting the proposal that was part of a bipartisan commission’s plan to reduce the federal budget deficit…Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack criticized the commission’s plan this week, saying that agriculture spending had already taken a hit toward reducing the deficit because of a reduction in crop insurance.
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MY OWN ANALYSIS: Among the programs targeted for cuts are the Conservation Stewardship Program, The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the Market Access Program. It’s interesting (in a rather perverse way), that while the plan would cut agricultural expenditures by 7% over the next decade, it would also shift $5 billion into an agricultural disaster plan that has no funding base after 2012, but is favored by Conrad whose farmer constituents in South Dakota are heavily reliant on disaster funding. My own friends in Washington have been especially critical of this part of the plan, since “the proposal to spend more on prepaid disasters involves cutting conservation funding immediately in order to pay for it”. One longtime sustainable agriculture activist pointed out a particular irony here, noting that it’s “funny how new spending became part of a deficit reduction plan”. That Senator Conrad’s constituents would actually benefit from the changes, while other farmers and programs including those providing important incentives for environmental stewardship are expected to take a major hit, seems both hypocritical and self serving. But this is politics after all. -Taylor Reid (Beginning Farmers Administrator)