The draft recommendations by the co-chairs of President Obama's deficit reduction commission are a long way from becoming reality. The draft is just a starting point that faces scrutiny by the full commission, which will send its recommendations to the President next month. But even if its call for $3 billion in farm subsidy cuts and elimination of the conservation security program never happen, American Farm Bureau policy chief Mark Maslyn says that agriculture will be part of that commission's report as they are looking at all federal spending as well as revenue sources.
Maslyn says a much-changed Congress must reorganize before it tackles deficit recommendations, but the 'writing is on the wall' either now or later in a new farm bill.
"We certainly expect that deficit reduction and budget reconciliation for example is likely," Maslyn said. "And we're going to have to do…agriculture is going to have to do its share."
Maslyn skipped the word "fair" share. Farm Bureau argues agriculture's already taken billions in cuts over the years.
"If you look at USDA's budget the amount that goes into pure commodity spending, farm spending is increasingly small," Maslyn said. "The amount that goes into nutrition and school lunches and WIC and things like that, non-farm spending, is increasingly the largest part of the department's budget. So they may try to eliminate the deficit by going after farm programs or for that matter, all of USDA."
Ag's taken its share of hits, most recently in a 2005 budget process and it continues to see erosion in baseline funding as higher crop prices reduce subsidies.
Maslyn says the challenge for ag now is to create the best long-term safety net it can given limited dollars, rather than have the budget committees or others make that decision for agriculture.