Quickly weighing in on the plan, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said, “Once again, we see that Congress is attempting to balance the budget on the backs of rural America. The proposed cuts to agriculture spending would severely constrain the ability of the next farm bill to provide policy that protects against yield losses and when markets collapse.”

While commodity prices are currently high, said Johnson, “good times do not last. Policymakers should look to what happened around the 1996 farm bill, when lawmakers saw relatively high farm prices as a reason to remove most of the farm safety net. When prices fell in the late 1990s, billions of dollars were spent to keep farmers on the farm when a modest investment in the 1996 farm bill would have prevented the calamity. We must learn from the past.

“Agriculture has been ready and willing to do its part in reducing the federal deficit, but Rep. Ryan’s budget proposes total cuts to farm bill spending of more than $155 billion. A cut of more than $33 billion to the safety net over the next 10 years is too much. This is $10 billion more than the agreement reached late last year in a bipartisan, bicameral manner by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.

“These proposed budget cuts highlight the importance of looking for new solutions in agriculture policy to ensure that farmers and ranchers are protected even as available funding decreases. Farmers need a safety net for difficult times — when markets collapse and when disaster strikes.”

In recent months, the NFU has pushed the Market-Driven Inventory System, developed by University of Tennessee economists (for more on UT/NFU collaborations, see here). Had the system been in place from 1998 to 2010, claimed Johnson, “The federal government would have saved about 60 percent in farm program spending compared to the costs of the programs that were actually implemented during that period.”

“Rural America, production agriculture and the House Agriculture Committee are willing to do our part in reducing the deficit,” said Lucas, echoing a common theme among farm state legislators. “The current farm bill expires in September and the House Agriculture Committee is continuing its farm bill process with a series of field hearings to receive input from producers on how to craft responsible policy that contributes to deficit reduction. Additional hearings in Washington, D.C. will quickly follow field hearings.”

Those field hearings include stops in Illinois on Friday and another in Jonesboro, Ark., on March 30.