December 1, 2010
On Wednesday, December 1, the White House National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform released its final report detailing a plan to reduce the nation’s deficit. The report, entitled “The Moment of Truth,” calls for significant reductions in agricultural spending.
The Commission recommends $15 billion in gross reductions in mandatory agriculture programs from 2012 through 2020. Among its less elaborate recommendations, the Commission calls for “limits on conservation programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP).”
The report also calls for cuts in commodity program direct payments by making the program counter-cyclical and for reductions in the fairly small Market Access Program.
Strangely for a commission report that details proposed cut after proposed cut, in the agriculture section it calls for spending $5 billion in new money to continue the so-called permanent agriculture disaster program that has gotten off to such a rocky start in its first few years of existence.
In addition to cutting mandatory funding, the report proposes to cut discretionary spending, which Congress appropriates every year to pay for all the basic functions of government. The Commission recommends that Congress scrap “low-priority” programs, and “offer over $50 billion in immediate cuts to lead by example.” Furthermore, the report calls on Congress to limit federal spending in 2012 to 2011 levels and eventually reduce spending to 2008 levels. There are few details or specific cuts mentioned.
The proposed cuts to discretionary spending are troubling, as many critical conservation, research, farm credit, nutrition, and rural development programs depend on the annual appropriations process.
After the first draft of the Commission report was released publicly in November, NSAC wrote a letter to the President and the Commissioners, recommending they propose closing commodity program payment rule loopholes and lowering per-farm payment caps, the number one agricultural campaign pledge of candidate Obama and one that is as yet unfulfilled. We also suggested that similar rules be applied to crop insurance subsidies, while receipt of all production and insurance subsidies should be linked to implementation of basic soil and water conservation.
The Commission will meet again on Friday, December 3 to vote on its set of recommendations. Preliminary signs indicate that it is not likely to reach the bar set for endorsement of their own report. Fourteen of the eighteen commissioners would need to approve the report for that endorsement to occur.