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Budget cuts will affect agriculture

DANIEL LOOKER 04/12/2011 @ 2:59pm Business Editor

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the compromise agreement to trim 2011 federal spending will speed up some cuts that the administration had already proposed for 2012 and will give his agency about six months to determine exactly how to put them into effect before the federal fiscal year ends in September.

Vilsack told North American Agricultural Journalists Tuesday morning that more than $3 billion of the cuts to this year budget will come from USDA. They include about $800 billion in conservation programs, he said, as well as cuts to the Forest Service for fire suppression.

Vilsack expressed frustration that some of the same members of the House who want to cut USDA spending had also asked for more money to deal with the pine beetle infestations in western forests, which are creating an even greater danger of fires.

Vilsack doesn't disagree with the need to reduce federal spending, but said Congress isn't asking the question of how important services need to be met by the private sector.

"Who's going to do that work? Because it still needs to be done," he said.

Some of the cuts include nutrition programs.

Later, when NAAJ met with Congressional leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, the ranking Democrat on the House committee, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, said that cuts to ag programs add up to about $1.5 billion.

They include a $350 million reduction in spending on the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, he said, which means the program is likely out of money for the rest of this year.

The compromise agreement on budget cutting incloudes $25 million to crop insurance that was going to be used to fund a new program that gives rebates to farmers with a record of few claims against insurance.

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