Friday, February 25, 2011

Slash and Burn in Congress – Why You Should Care About Recent Budget Cuts

HildeBudgets are a hot topic these days--in households all across America as well as in two very special houses in Washington, DC: the White House and House of Representatives. You might have caught wind of President Obama’s recently released proposed budget for fiscal year 2012, but it's possible the budget slash and burn that took place in Congress last week may have slipped past you.

Here’s why you should be paying attention:

In an attempt to slash more than $60 billion in spending for the last half of fiscal year 2011, the House went on a reckless cutting spree last Saturday in the form of a funding bill (H.R. 1), putting many programs that support family farmers and good food at risk, and terminating others altogether.

The cuts disproportionately target USDA and Food & Drug Administration budgets compared to other federal spending (22% cuts for the former verses 6% cut for the government overall). And within USDA, the cuts disproportionately target programs that serve beginning and minority farmers, protect the environment, increase economic opportunity and ensure proper nutrition for low-income families. All of this without much in the way of cuts to the most costly federal agricultural spending items – commodity and crop insurance subsidies – two programs that have historically benefited the biggest and most industrial producers while failing the farmers best positioned to rebuild our economies, steward our land and bring good, healthful food to our tables.

In addition, public lending for farmers was cut drastically, an irresponsible move at a time of extremely tight credit markets and increased demand for Farm Service Agency loans. Such cuts to farm credit are sure to be disastrous for family farmers who need operating loans to get their seed in the ground and growing this season, and will inevitably delay economic recovery in rural America and beyond.

This is not to say that comprehensive budget cuts aren’t needed to reduce our nation’s deficits. It is saying that cuts need to be equitable and responsible. Family farmers and rural America should not suffer disproportionately. And cuts must not unfairly discriminate against programs that serve sustainable, organic, beginning and minority farmers.

The funding bill (H.R. 1) passed the House but still needs approval from the Senate before it can become law. Now is an important time to make your voices heard – contact your Senators and ask them to stand strong for family farmers, rural America and good food by rejecting the House’s unfair and discriminatory cuts.

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