NFU officials said that while they were reassured that no mandatory agricultural spending cuts were included in the House- and Senate-approved budget, they are concerned about the budget plan’s $4.865-billion cut to discretionary farm spending over the next 10 years.

"Farmers and ranchers have been in a deep price trough for the last decade," said NFU President Dave Frederickson. "Cutting agriculture programs would further depress the agricultural economy."

The NFU and 71 other farm organizations recently wrote congressional leaders urging them to fund discretionary spending at the level proposed in the president’s budget and not that of the House version of the spending plan.

The discretionary cuts represent 6.5 percent of new farm bill spending, Frederickson said. Discretionary agricultural spending includes research, food assistance programs, crop insurance and administrative costs. According to Frederickson, the appropriation committees in the past have redistributed cuts from these programs to mandatory programs such as farm safety net provisions, nutrition and conservation.

Going into the budget conference, Frederickson said, the House of Representatives had approved a plan to balance the federal budget and provide tax benefits for the rich "on the backs of farmers and ranchers" by reducing agricultural spending by $18.6 billion.

Frederickson noted that the tax provisions in the nonbonding Budget Resolution are still clouded. While the House approved a $550 billion tax package, the Senate approved a $350 billion tax proposal; both of which do not compare to the administration's $726 billion tax proposal.

"A balanced budget should include balanced tax reform and an economic stimulus for the poor and middle-class Americans, not just the privileged," Frederickson said. "A balanced budget should help create economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for all citizens, including those in rural America."

“The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (FSRIA) was enacted less than one year ago following two years of exhaustive debate in the House and Senate,” the April 3 letter from the 72 farm organizations said. “It is not even fully implemented.

“The new farm law represents a delicate balance by effectively addressing the stability of our agricultural production base, protecting our important natural resources and enhancing nutrition and food assistance programs for our citizens. The careful allocation of resources evidenced by the new law should not be upset so soon after its enactment.”

The organizations said the mandatory programs administered by the Department of Agriculture (i.e., commodity, conservation, crop insurance, nutrition, forestry and other valuable programs) are “of enormous importance to farmers, ranchers, rural businesses, low-income Americans and all our nation's children. Therefore, we respectfully urge the conferees to avoid reconciliation instructions to any committees other than the Finance and Ways and Means committees.

“In addition, we urge the conferees to adequately fund discretionary spending, and ask that you adopt a discretionary spending total at the level of the Senate resolution, which is similar to the president's budget.

“The undersigned organizations respectfully urge the conference committee not to include any reconciliation instructions in the final budget resolution to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, the House Committee on Agriculture, or the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.”

Other organizations signing the letter include: American Corn Growers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, American Soybean Association, American Sugar Alliance, Farm Credit Council, National Association of Conservation Districtss, National Association of Farmer-elected Committeeman, National Association Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Grain Sorghum Producers, US Rice Producers Association, and the USA Rice Federation.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com