SPECIAL PAYMENT LIMITS UPDATE
It has been a long day, with several twists and turns. The bottom line is that – late tonight – markup was postponed until the week of October 17th.
Your phone calls are making the difference and making things happen. And your Senators are getting the message. Thank you and keep the calls coming.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Chambliss’ budget reconciliation package came out this morning – it is as bad as or worse than expected.
The discussion on payment limits continues, but clearly was unsettled today and was likely one of the main reasons for the postponement. Another factor in the postponement was evidently some angst among Senators on the majority side about be called on to vote to cut food stamps during a period of national crisis.
While the cut to food stamp program remained limited (if $574 million can be considered limited) to the President’s proposal -- as Senator Chambliss said it would months ago.
The cut to conservation title was huge at over $1 billion, or a third of the total cut.
Conservation programs are 8 percent of total farm bill spending, so taking a third of the cuts is clearly unfair. To make matters worse, the CSP was targeted for $821 million in cuts over 5 years. This represents over three-quarters of the conservation cuts, and 27 percent of the total reconciliation cuts. The CSP represents less than one percent of total farm bill mandatory spending.
Senator Chambliss’ public explanation for the hugely disproportionate cut to CSP is that “the demand is just not there for the program” – a total fabrication. The CRP was capped at 36.4 million acres, increasing to 38 million in 2011, for a total 5-year savings of $129 million. The rest of the conservation cut was a very small EQIP cut. SAC took the lead in a national conservation and environmental group sign-on letter opposed to the Senator Chambliss proposal that was delivered to the Senate this evening. SAC also issued a press release on the proposal Wednesday morning.
The Chambliss package included reinstatement of the dairy payment program, though cut back a bit from current levels, and a 2.5 percent cut to commodity program payments (direct, counter cyclical, and LDPs). The commodity cuts did not include generic certificates, something we pointed out to congressional staff this morning and that became a sticky issue by afternoon. The commodity package also terminated the cotton step-2 program, but not until late 2006. No cuts were made in rural development, and the cut to the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems was much smaller than we originally expected.
Have you taken action yet?
We ask you to continue to contact your Senators about establishing effective payment limitations for federal farm programs.
The most effective thing Congress could do to strengthen family farms and rural communities is establish payments limitations and stop the unlimited subsidies that help mega farms drive smaller operations out of business.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and a bipartisan team of Senate cosponsors are leading the fight for a proposal to implement real payments limitations on federal farm programs, placing the cap at $250,000.
CALL - 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senator, they will connect you.
Ask your Senators to support farm payment limits in budget reconciliation.
If you live in Iowa - you can also take another step
CALL Representative Jim Nussle's office --- 202-225-2911
Representative Nussle chairs the House Budget Committee and will be a powerful voice in the final decision on this issue when Senate and House Budget Reconciliation bills are worked on in conference committee.
And, next week (or more precisely, this weekend) Congress is coming home for a one week recess.
Shortly after they return later in October, they will resolve the final issues relating to the federal budget reconciliation. In particular, they will decide how to cut $3 billion out of spending on agriculture.
They have two choices, they can cut across the board - cut conservation (like the conservation security program); rural development; cooperative and value-added development; food and nutrition programs (like food stamps and WIC - Women, Infants and Children nutrition program) - the very programs that help family farmers, ranchers, and rural communities as well as many of the most disadvantaged American children and families.
OR - Congress can, instead, choose to limit payments to the nation's largest farms by enacting the Grassley - Dorgan payment limits proposal.
The choice really is that stark. Cut spending that makes a difference for family farmers and ranchers, rural communities and American children living in poverty. Or, reduce (not eliminate, just cap) unlimited, sometimes multi-million dollar subsidies to mega farms.
And you have the chance to make your voice heard. Contact your Senators' offices, urge them to support the payment limitations that Senator Grassley and Senator Dorgan have proposed.
Ask your Senators to let you know when they will be in or near your community so that you can talk with them about this issue - face-to-face. And when they come, bring your family, friends and neighbors with you.
Remind your members of Congress how important this issue really is, because, in many ways, the future of rural America is at stake. Remind them that the future of rural America is their future too.
John Crabtree, firstname.lastname@example.org
402-687-2103 ext 1010
Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.