Chambliss Supports Deficit Reduction, Disappointed in Ag Sector Package

Chambliss Supports Deficit Reduction, Disappointed in Ag Sector Package

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) expressed support for the "Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act," yet expressed concern about final results forced by House leadership.

"These five-year cuts reduce government's overall deficit and borrowing, but in agriculture, I have stated throughout this reconciliation process my ultimate goal was that all components of the farm bill - commodities, conservation and nutrition - are treated fairly. This package does not accomplish that goal. I am pleased that the Senate position of no reduction for food stamps was included. However, continued insistence by House Leadership, the White House, and USDA of no extension of any provision in the commodity title of the farm bill has resulted in a package that contains obvious inequities," said Chambliss.

"The Senate strived to preserve 2007 Farm Bill baseline options for commodity crops with temporary cuts over multiple years - among all crops and with conservation, research and rural development taking their share," Chambliss explained. "Those options, along with extension of the Farm Bill, would have protected the baseline and provided security for farmers in future years. However, House Leadership insisted in concentrating temporary cuts deeply in the 2006 crop year only, rather than extend commodity baseline options, as with conservation. I could not agree to impose such a heavy financial burden that hit producers still reeling from a season of crop loss and doubled costs of irrigation, fertilizer and diesel. From Friday throughout the weekend, House Leadership rejected Senate alternatives, driving the House and Senate to drop commodity reductions."

"The imbalance of this package is apparent on its face. While the baseline is preserved for some conservation programs through extension, the House opposed similar treatment for commodities. This short term reprieve from cutting crop payments means commodities will not be protected like conservation during reauthorization. This will be a big problem for farmers as we begin to write the Farm Bill in 2007. The constant critics of agriculture programs will blame farmers for escaping their share of deficit reduction just as commodity support programs are about to be considered for reauthorization in the 2007 Farm Bill," said Chambliss.

"My deep disappointment is with the lost opportunity of this negotiation, yet my steadfast admiration is for America's farmers and ranchers willing to share in reducing the deficit burden on their children and grandchildren. I remain dedicated to writing the next farm bill, with the challenge to balance all of agriculture's best interests at heart," said Chambliss.

Agriculture spending cuts of $2.709 billion (Fiscal Years 2006-2010)
Commodity Programs:
• No extension of commodity programs
• No across-the-board cuts for commodity programs
• Advance direct payments reduced to 40% crop year 2006; further reduced to 22% in crop year 2007
• Cotton Step 2 program terminated effective Aug 1, 2006
• MILC dairy support extended, without the Senate's 2.5% cut, adds $998 million spending

Conservation Programs:
• EQIP extended to 2010, funds reduced $1.27 billion FY 07 - 09; $1.3 billion FY 10
• CSP extended to 2011, funds capped $1.954 billion FY 06 - 10; $5.65 billion FY 06 - 15
• Watershed Rehabilitation program - Cancellation of funds available prior to Oct 1, 2006

Rural Development/Energy/Research Programs:
• Renewable Energy Program: Limit FY 07 funds to $3M
• Value-added Grant program: Cancel unspent funds prior to Oct 1, 2006
• Enhanced Access to Broadband Telecommunication Services in Rural Areas: Cancel unspent funds prior to Oct 1, 2006
• Rural Business Investment Program: Cancel unspent funds prior to Oct 1, 2006
• Rural Business Strategic Investment Grant Program: Cancel unspent funds prior to Oct 1, 2006
• Rural Firefighters Grant Program: Cancel unspent funds prior to Oct 1, 2006
• Initiative for Agriculture and Food Systems: Cancel unspent funds for FY 07 - 09