Sen. Kent Conrad joined several Democratic senators Tuesday in urging the White House to be careful about moving ahead with “extreme” cuts to agriculture and rural support programs as lawmakers work toward a deficit-cutting compromise.
Conrad and Democratic members of the Senate Agriculture Committee sent a letter to President Barack Obama saying they’re “committed to significant reforms” – including reductions to program costs and streamlining programs to save money – as they begin to write the 2012 Farm Bill. While agriculture must “do its part to help reduce federal spending,” they told Obama they have “serious concerns that the ongoing budget negotiations not impose imprudent cuts at the expense of the real needs of Rural America and the 16 million jobs that come from agriculture.”
Here’s the rest of their letter:
Dear President Obama:
We strongly support serious efforts to reduce the federal deficit and to find a more sustainable path for job creation and fiscal responsibility.Â We understand that doing so will require difficult decisions based on the right priorities in order to move our country forward.Â Following our recent discussions with you, we respectfully submit our serious concerns that the ongoing budget negotiations not impose imprudent cuts at the expense of the real needs of Rural America and the 16 million jobs that come from agriculture.Â Specifically, we strongly oppose the extreme level of budget cuts to Agriculture proposed by Budget Chairman Ryan and passed by the House of Representatives.
As we begin to write the 2012 Farm Bill, we are committed to significant reforms including reducing program costs and duplication, along with streamlining programs and delivery. We believe that agriculture must do its part to help reduce federal spending. In fact, cuts to crop insurance have already contributed $4 billion toward deficit reduction. But we also understand that farming is an extraordinarily high-risk undertaking â€“ as clearly demonstrated by the devastating weather events across the nation this spring. Americaâ€™s farmers are struggling with a severe drought in the Southwestern plains, historic flooding in the lower Mississippi basin and a cold, wet spring in the Midwest that is delaying spring planting. Americaâ€™s farmers need tools to manage their risk in case of natural disasters and increasingly volatile prices.
We are also concerned that extreme cuts to the Farm Bill budget would have the unintended consequence of forcing reductions to other important national priorities. Conservation programs that protect our nationâ€™s soil and water, food assistance programs for families who have fallen on hard times, investments in renewable energy, support for local and regional agriculture, incentives for rural job creation and the research necessary to continue the productivity gains needed to feed an ever-growing and hungrier world all may be in jeopardy.Â The Senate Agriculture Committee must have flexibility to ensure that our agricultural economy and rural America receive the necessary investments and tools to be successful.
We thank you for your consideration of our serious concerns. We stand ready to work with you to reduce the federal deficit while respecting the critical role agriculture and our rural economies play in leading our nation to economic recovery.