Farm Press Blog

Election 'chickens' coming home to roost for farm bill debate

  • A large number of freshmen congressmen are now serving in Congress as a result of Tea Party efforts to push deficit reduction in 2010.
  • Many of those came to Washington with one goal in mind - to reduce the federal deficit.
  • Most have no sense of the importance of farm programs to providing food, feed, fiber and fuel to the nation.


It must have been a lot of fun to show up at meetings in the summer of 2010 and bash your sitting congressman or senator. No one knows how many video clips were shot of Tea Party members shouting down members of the U.S. House and Senate, some of whom had put their careers on the line for farmers.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost, so to speak, and, for the first time in decades farmers are faced with the very real possibility of not having a new farm bill or much chance of an extension of the current legislation when the 2008 law expires later this year.

By now, most of you have seen reports of the new federal budget proposed by Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee. The proposal would cut $33 billion from federal farm programs or about $10 billion more than the House and Senate Agriculture Committees proposed last fall.

Unlike previous years, this time the House of Representatives is filled with freshman members who have little or no sense of the purpose of farm programs or the stability they provide to agriculture. All most of them know is they think they have a mandate to cut federal spending.

House and Senate Democrats have tried to point this out in their statements about the Ryan budget. Rep. Colin Peterson, D-Minn., and ranking member of the House Ag Committee, said farmers could pretty much kiss any chance of a new farm bill goodbye for this year.

Sen. Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and one of the principal authors of the 2008 farm bill, said the Ryan budget poses real threats to programs such as health care and farm programs for residents of his state of North Dakota and the nation.

“The cuts to agriculture programs will especially hurt North Dakota, and would pull the rug out from under thousands of hard working farm and ranch families,” he said in a statement released by his office.

Conrad said the Ryan plan “is a mix of deep reductions in federal spending and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. It calls for cutting federal support for education and job training programs, energy and infrastructure programs, Pell grants for college students, and health care programs, including Medicare. 

“The House Republican proposal also upends a bipartisan agreement on the amount of federal support for agriculture programs and will make it extremely difficult to craft a new farm bill this year.”

As Conrad notes, the Ryan budget calls for about $180 billion in cuts in the USDA budget, including $31 billion to commodity and crop insurance programs, $133.5 billion to nutrition assistance programs, and about $16 billion to conservation programs. That’s in contrast to last fall’s House and Senate agriculture committee proposal to cut $23 billion in agriculture, conservation and nutrition program funding.

"We had an agreement on what the savings would be out of agriculture and then Congressman Ryan comes along and throws that agreement out the window," Conrad said. "In order to get this farm bill done now, it's going to require House Republicans to tell Congressman Ryan that his plan goes way too far and that they're not going to go for it."  

Discuss this Blog Entry 5

Bob Joehl (not verified)
on Mar 26, 2012

This article seems to be written from the viewpoint that continued deficit spending is acceptable to all stakeholders in American agriculture. All budget proposals need to be debated and reviewed for need vs want. The US government's borrowing ability will be severely impacted by any change in the dollar's "world currency" status. We can't keep kicking this "budget can" down the road.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 26, 2012

Written like a true liberal press. We must get this spending under control and stop all of these "give-a-ways". With commodities at record prices and production methods getting more efficient every season, maybe this is a perfect time to question why people should be taxed and their money given away to another "class" of people.

on Mar 27, 2012

So we're going to solve this budget problem by eliminating the .5 of 1 percent of federal spending that farm programs account for? We spend more on a squadron of F-16 fighter planes -- that we no longer need -- than we spend on farm programs. How many aerial dogfights have we had with the Taliban?

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 2, 2012

That is such an absurd counter-argument...

Typical liberal response: Bash defense spending. To be clear, the F-16 has been one of the most important close air support weapons systems in both Afghanistan and Iraq; saving countless lives of US fighting men and women in harms way. In keeping with the sophomoric nature of your reply, I'll go on to say that I'd rather allocate budget to protecting our deployed service men and women than funding rhubarb subsidies -- that we no longer need!

David F Brooks (not verified)
on Mar 27, 2012

Yessir, Forrest. Keep that hand out and take all we can! What the hell, "they're" giving away fresh printed money so let's get our share!

Well, I say thanks to all those who rallied and waved their signs! Without them we would still have both houses of Congress in the hands of those who continue their efforts to destroy our economic system, not to mention our Constitution!

While you are bemoaning the patriotism of a bunch of loyal Americans, take a look north to TN 8th!

At the end of the day, our government must become LESS. And I'll bet a dollar to a donut that the last vote will leave in place an adequate safety-net under agriculture, and your sensational reporting with your spiteful headlines will have amounted to exactly nothing!

David F Brooks
Bells, Tn

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