WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), a senior member of the Committee, announced they sent a letter to the President opposing budget cuts to farm programs in a tough economy. The letter was also signed by Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS), John Thune (R-SD), James Risch (R-ID), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and David Vitter (R-LA).
The following is the text of the letter sent March 15, 2010:
“As Congress directs its attention to the fiscal year 2011 budget, we write to voice our opposition to cuts in the farm safety net. Cutting farm programs in the midst of an economic downturn sends the wrong signal to rural America. While we agree that fiscal restraint is necessary and spending in the Federal budget should be reduced, doing so in this manner places a disproportionate burden on the backs of farmers, ranchers and rural communities and fails to recognize the recent sacrifices these constituencies made to expand nutrition programs during the reauthorization of the 2008 farm bill.
“In 2008, the Congress passed a fiscally responsible farm bill that did not add to the deficit and included more than $7 billion worth of cuts to farm and the crop insurance programs to increase spending in nutrition assistance for needy Americans. The farm bill represents a commitment to our rural communities, and we have an obligation to fulfill our obligations to our farmers and ranchers who depend on this legislation to make business decisions. Reducing our level of commitment with the proposed budget cuts to the farm safety net jeopardizes their economic sustainability and would cost jobs in rural America.
“The fiscal year 2011 budget for the Department of Agriculture includes mandatory spending reductions totaling $812 million for fiscal year 2011 and total savings over a ten-year period exceeding $10 billion. Secretary Vilsack states it would be an ‘improper conclusion’ to assume the mandatory spending reductions are linked to a corresponding increase in spending for reauthorization of the child nutrition programs. Last year, we took issue with comments that pitted nutrition spending against farmers and ranchers. We do so again this year as well as proposals that increase discretionary spending with equal reductions in mandatory programs.
“The spending on mandatory farm programs represents only 0.17 percent of the Federal budget and a mere16 percent of mandatory outlays at the Department of Agriculture. In contrast, food and nutrition assistance is estimated to be 82 percent this year, increasing to 86 percent through the middle of this decade. Since farm programs represent such a small and decreasing portion of the Federal budget, further cutting the safety net will have a dubious impact on the deficit and efforts to reduce the debt. However, it will at the same time undercut one of your key strategic goals in assisting rural communities to create prosperity so they are self-sustaining, repopulating, and economically thriving.
“Both programs are counter-cyclical in nature and changes were fully paid for in the 2008 farm bill. The farm safety net has been declining as a share of mandatory spending for the past five decades and will continue to do so in the years ahead. We believe we should honor the commitments made in the farm bill to rural America and those producing the world’s safest, most abundant and affordable food supply. Making further reductions in these programs would be counterproductive, especially so soon after passing the farm bill.
“We look forward to working with you on reining in government spending, reviewing the budget at the Department of Agriculture and retaining the commitments the Federal government has made to rural and urban communities alike.”