Vilsack call subsidy cuts for large farms affordable
President Barack Obama this week proposed a 2012 budget that revives a proposal to tighten income eligibility for farm subsidies and to slash the amount that large farms and landowners can collect, The Des Moines Register reports.
Congress has rejected similar proposals at the behest of farm groups, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday that the largest farm operations can afford to take a cut in subsidies to help trim the ballooning budget deficit.
The proof? The Agriculture Department on Monday estimated that net farm income would reach $95 billion this year, up 20 percent from last year. If the forecast is right, 2011 will be the second best year for farm income in the past 35 years when adjusted for inflation, the Register said. Click here to read the USDA report.
A story in the Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, noted that farm subsidies are a "a hot-button issue that draws uncomfortable political battle lines: Should lawmakers deeply cut farm subsidy programs that help ensure a steady domestic supply of food, but that critics say are rife with waste and largely benefit large agribusiness corporations?"
As for the rest of Obama's proposed budget and impact on ag: Some of the other proposed cuts would affect conservation programs for wetlands and farmlands; rural housing loan and grant programs; and the agency's Food Safety and Inspection Service, which monitors meat, egg and dairy facilities. Such budget cuts would reflect "efficiencies that can be obtained," rather than affect food safety, Vilsack said during a news conference Monday.
The president's budget also calls for USDA spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or so-called food stamps, to grow 15 percent from 2010 levels. In November, a record 43.6 million people — more than 1 in 8 Americans — took part in the program for food aid, according to USDA data.
Such programs can help farmers, the Times said. In recent years, for example, the dairy industry, which has struggled to recover from slumping milk prices, was able to unload some of its hefty cheese surplus to federally backed food bank programs.