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Group calls for effective ag cuts

DANIEL LOOKER 09/20/2011 @ 2:48pm Business Editor

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Tuesday said it’s calling on Congress’s deficit cutting “super committee,” to make cuts in ag spending that it says would be fairer and more effective than those proposed by President Barack Obama Monday.

The group is asking Congress “to end subsidies for the conversion of prime grasslands, to renew funding for critical mandatory farm bill programs that have no secured baselines after the end of the current farm bill cycle in 2012, and to protect anti-hunger programs from cuts.”

The group’s lobbyist, Ferd Hoefner, listed what it sees as shortcomings in the White House ag cuts:

The Obama proposal holds promise, especially in the call for the end of direct payments.  The farm bill cuts the President offered, however, are disproportionate to the size of the farm bill budget relative to total federal mandatory spending.  In addition to the unfair size of the cut, the Administration proposal has three other problems.

First, the Administration would cut direct payments without offering a new alternative safety net proposal, even while proposing to leave a largely failed disaster program in place at a very substantial total cost equaling roughly half of the total savings.  Disaster assistance should be built into the new safety net at a significantly lower cost, and eliminated as a free-standing program.

Second, all of the subsidies they do propose to leave in place are available without any effective limit on the size of the subsidy any one farm can receive.  As such, they would focus the cuts on small and mid-sized farms, while allowing the largest farms continued access to the loopholes currently written into law to largely avoid the cuts that apply to everyone else.

Third, they do not take account of the dire need to put money into farm, food, and rural programs that create jobs, new business opportunities, and new healthy food options but that have shrinking or soon to be non-existent budgets.

The group’s own recommendations for ag spending can be found here.

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