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NCGA supports shifting direct payments

DANIEL LOOKER 03/05/2011 @ 9:05pm Business Editor

Delegates to the National Corn Growers Association’s annual Corn Congress took a step toward reducing the direct payment program at their meeting in Tampa, Florida Saturday.
They changed their policy to say, “NCGA should investigate transitioning direct payments into programs that allow producers the ability to manage risk while assuring food security.”

Some NCGA members would like to use direct payment funds to strengthen the ACRE program, perhaps by having the revenue program based on losses at the crop reporting district level instead of an entire state.
But the group stayed away from anything that specific.
“We’re investigating possibilities but there’s still a lot of support for the direct payments out here,” delegate Ken McCauley, a past NCGA president from White Cloud, Kansas told Agriculture.com
The policy gives NCGA flexibility as Congress starts to debate the next farm bill, said Bart Schott, a Kulm, North Dakota farmer who is the current NCGA president.
“We want to keep it open so we can have some latitude to move on it,” Schott said.
NCGA and other farm groups are well aware that there’s risk to giving up direct payments too easily. The program, which costs over $5 billion a year, is a tempting pool of money for members of Congress looking for ways to reduce the deficit.
NCGA and other groups meeting at the Commodity Classic in Tampa this week recognized that risk when they issued a statement on deficit reduction earlier Saturday.
“We note that agriculture made a down payment in cutting spending when the Department of Agriculture directed $4 billion in savings under the Standard Reinsurance Agreement for federal crop insurance toward deficit reduction,” the groups said.  “We believe any further reduction in discretionary spending should recognize and reflect this contribution. We would also note that agriculture-related programs represent less than one-half of one percent of the federal budget.”
The statement was issued by NCGA president Schott and the leaders of the American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers.
All four groups “recognize that reducing federal deficits and the national debt is critical to putting the American economy, including U.S. agriculture, on a sound course for future growth and prosperity,” the statement said.
“Looking forward,” it added, “we believe any meaningful approach to deficit and debt reduction in the FY2012 budget must encompass all entitlement programs and all discretionary spending. We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to develop a budget that successfully addresses the need for federal deficit and debt reduction balanced with the need of ensuring a successful agricultural economy.”  

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