In letters addressed to House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, the organizations took slightly different tacks in expressing their concerns but were unanimous in their belief that the House Budget Committee has reneged on its promises to farmers.
Copies of the letters were sent to all House members.
“We are writing today to express deep concern with the FY 2004 Budget Resolution recently approved by the House Budget Committee requiring $19.7 billion in reductions for agriculture programs,” said a letter signed by 12 farm groups including the National Cotton Council.
“Our organizations believe strongly that reopening the 2002 Farm Bill, following a very divisive debate and protracted negotiations, will only undermine the sensible and reliable farm safety net provided by the 107th Congress to restore long term fiscal discipline in agriculture spending.”
The second letter, signed by 16 farm organizations including the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union, also called attention to promises made in the farm law.
“As you are aware, farmers and ranchers did not participate in the economic growth and prosperity that characterized much of the last decade for many Americans,” it said. “In addition, as a result of poor commodity prices, reduced market competition and opportunity, and natural disasters, agricultural producers continue to be caught in an economic crisis.
“In response, Congress committed to address the long and continued economic hardship in rural America through the 2001 budget act and the farm bill enacted less than one year ago.”
The Farm Bureau/Farmers Union letter noted that the $19.17 billion in farm spending cuts recommended by the House Budget Committee in its FY 2004 Budget Resolution would represent more than a 25 percent reduction in the additional resources Congress provided to enhance the economic safety net for farmers.
It said that to comply with the reconciliation instructions in the Budget Resolution the House Agriculture Committee would be forced to reduce authorized farm bill spending by approximately 10 percent over the next ten years.
“We believe it is disingenuous to suggest that a balanced budget coupled with substantial tax reductions achieved at the expense of farmers, ranchers, and their communities represent our national priorities for economic growth,” the Farm Bureau/Farmers Union letter said.
The National Cotton Council letter noted that “America's farmers and ranchers are still reeling” from an unprecedented period of severe drought, rising energy costs, and sharp declines in farm income.
“In its recent annual baseline projection, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) reported that farmers' income suffered a ‘dramatic one-year $13 billion dip in 2002’,” the letter said. “While livestock prices are expected to improve and most analysts project modest gains for cotton, rice and peanuts, FAPRI predicts that prices for major crops, including corn, soybeans and wheat, are likely to decline later this year.
“In short, the new counter-cyclical program, designed to provide government assistance when producers most need it, may play a crucial role in shoring up many financially stressed farm operations. In addition, one of the most important reasons for strengthening the direct payment and marketing loan assistance programs was to stem the tide of unbudgeted ad hoc assistance.”
The letter said that at a time when the nation faces the threat of terrorism, an impending war, and a softening economy, the signing organizations recognize the responsibility of Congress and the Administration to confront rising federal budget deficits.
“However, a change of course this soon into implementation of the new Farm Bill would put the recovery of our rural economy seriously at risk. It would also undercut efforts to provide new conservation initiatives and enhance the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture in the world marketplace. We urge you and your colleagues to preserve the funding of the 2002 Farm Bill.”
Signing the letter with the NCC were the American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Grain Sorghum Producers, National Sunflower Association, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, US Canola Association, US Rice Producers Association, USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, and the USA Rice Federation.
The second letter was signed by the National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Beekeepers Federation, American Corn Growers Association, American Sheep Industry Association, Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association, Intertribal Agriculture Council, National Association of Farmer-Elected Committees, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Grange, National Milk Producers Federation, Northeast States Association for Agricultural Stewardship, Southeast Dairy Farmers Association, Soybean Producers of America, and Western United Dairymen.