Ag again open to budget cuts

Agriculture, once again, is being asked to shoulder a disproportionate share of congressional budget cuts.

“Those that say the budget doesn't really matter, that say agriculture is going to be treated fairly in the budget process, well that's not true under the budget that passed the House,” said U.S. Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Texas, in his weekly agricultural update, Ag Talk.

Stenholm said the House Appropriations Committee announced spending allocations for 13 separate spending bills, including agriculture and rural development.

Holding onto funds for agriculture will be a battle, Stenholm said. “New York Congressman James Walsh, a senior Republican on the Appropriations committee, said something this week that underscores how difficult it will be to make the trade-offs necessary to live within constraints of the 2005 Budget,” Stenholm said.

According to Stenholm, in regard to domestic spending program that should be cut, Walsh said: “It's what happens when you try to balance the budget entirely with non-defense discretionary spending. Those areas will really feel the brunt of these hard decisions.”

Stenholm said Walsh referred to a mandatory reduction in the agriculture budget that's $60 million less than last year. “Besides agriculture, only one of the 13 appropriation bills could be cut below last year's level,” he said. “Agriculture is being asked to do more than its fair share when it comes to cutting spending.”

Stenholm said the Appropriations Committee had to cut Farm Bill programs by $650 million to fit within its budget last year. “This allocation for next year means that the Appropriations Committee will have to make even deeper cuts in Farm Bill programs or cut other areas such as water and rural development programs.”

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