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Path to Prosperity goes through your fields

DANIEL LOOKER 04/05/2011 @ 2:03pm Business Editor

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his 2012 budget proposal this week, called "The Path to Prosperity" and his belt-tightening ideas include agriculture.

Ryan focuses mainly on reforms to big entitlement programs like Medicare, but it reserves a few paragraphs for agricultural spending that are already drawing mixed reviews in the farm community.

Page 36 of the budget includes ideas for "Aligning agricultural programs with economic reality."

Ryan wants to trim ag spending by $3 billion a year, or $30 billion over the next decade.

"With crop prices –- and deficits -- hitting new highs, it is time to adjust support to this industry to reflect economic realities," the budget proposal says. It suggests two ways to do that: "First, reduce the fixed payments that go to farmers irrespective of price levels, to reflect that soaring commodity prices are reducing the need for high levels of farm-income support. Second, reform the open-ended nature of the government's support for crop insurance, so that agricultural producers assume the same kind of responsibility for managing risk that other businesses do."

Ryan's committee also points out that the Agriculture Committee is responsible for those programs when it writes the next farm bill and "this proposal assumes that these savings do not take effect until the beginning of the next farm bill."

The National Corn Growers Association Tuesday said the cuts are significant, "but so is our nation's out-of-control budget deficit." NCGA said that farmers aren't singled out with cuts that are disproportionate to other budget trimming and that the group wants to work with House and Senate ag committees "to fashion a farm bill that provides farmers with risk management tools that are there when they truly need them."

National Farmers Union called the proposed cuts short-sighted.

"Our members have called for a reallocation of funds from direct payment programs to other components of the safety net that provide assistance only in times of need," said Farmers Union president Roger Johnson. "Crop insurance, which has already absorbed steep cuts, should be at the center of the next farm bill, along with permanent disaster programs, countercyclical programs and supply management."

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