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Agricultural concerns with proposed Obama budget

President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget proposal recommends cuts of $37.8 billion from farm programs and crop insurance. If adopted, the USDA budget would be $146 billion dollars, which would be a $10 billion dollar cut from fiscal year 2013. And, despite all the talk of budget cuts, the President’s plan would increase government spending by 2.5% over this year.

The proposed $7.4 billion reduction in the federal crop insurance program is of particular concern to various farm groups, including the American Soybean Association.

“As ASA has said many times over, soybean farmers are willing to do our part to address the nation’s fiscal challenges, and we have a vested interest in ensuring that the cuts needed are made in a strategic manner, with all potential consequences taken into account. As many farmers still struggle to recover from the worst drought in generations, now is not the time to make such a deep cut to the federal crop insurance program,” said Danny Murphy, ASA president. “Farming is an industry grounded in uncertainty, whether with regard to markets, prices, drought or rainfall, and we assume a huge risk when we put seed in the ground each planting season. Farmers are not alone in assuming that risk. The crops we plant produce a variety of foods and other products that Americans depend on every day. Crop insurance is a critical tool to ensure that not only are part of the risks covered for American farmers, but also for the millions of Americans who count on what we produce.”

In addition to the proposed cuts to crop insurance, ASA reiterated its strong opposition to a proposed restructuring of the nation’s international food aid programs. The proposed change would replace in-kind aid with cash vouchers for purchases of food aid from foreign suppliers instead of commodities grown by American farmers. The proposal would shift jurisdiction over $1.5 billion from the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to Foreign Operations, and provide that only 55% of food aid be purchased from American farmers.

“Federal food aid programs provide nutrition to impoverished people in developing countries, and we remain absolutely opposed to the replacement of in-kind aid with cash, which takes a key market away from American producers and places aid recipients at risk by allowing purchases from suppliers whose safety and quality are unknown. The proposal would also adversely affect shipping and logistics providers, packaging companies, and private voluntary organizations,” Murphy said.

Murphy did point out that not all was negative in the President’s budget. Several of ASA’s top priorities were reflected in the proposal, including both agricultural research and infrastructure.

“A significant positive in the budget is the investment in agricultural research, including $383 million for competitive grants through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI),” Murphy said. “Also encouraging is the President’s $50 billion commitment to ports and inland waterways through his ‘Fix It First’ program, and the goal of cutting timelines in half for major infrastructure projects, including ports and waterways.”

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