On February 21, hundreds of groups representing farmers and ranchers as well as anti-hunger, commodities, conservation and environmental groups sent a letter to Congressional appropriatiors urging them not to cut the funding amount for the 2018 Farm Bill (EESI was a signatory). The farm bill is an omnibus spending package that provides five years of mandatory and discretionary funding for food stamps, crop insurance, conservation, rural economic development, agriculture R&D and renewable energy development.
The letter reminds Congressional appropriators that in 2014, legislators voluntarily reduced farm bill outlays, contributing $23 billion to deficit reduction over a ten-year period. It was both the only reauthorization in the 113th Congress to voluntarily cut spending and the first time that a farm bill conference committee voluntarily offered cuts. Additionally, the 2014 farm bill is on-track to come in at least $100 billion under budget, mostly due to less than expected spending on the nutrition and crop insurance titles.
The letter states more cuts to the farm bill “would be extremely difficult, if not impossible… It is imperative that the committees not be hamstrung by further budget or appropriations cuts to any farm bill program.” Agriculture committee members largely agree, especially given the faltering state of the farm economy. House Agriculture Chairman Conaway (R-TX) commented in the first hearing on the 2018 farm bill, “Because we were asked during the last Farm Bill – when times were good – to cut twice before measuring once, in the upcoming Farm Bill debate we will measure our requirements first and then determine what kind of a budget we will need to meet those needs.”
Budget hawks are looking for additional areas to trim federal spending. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that the federal deficit in 2017 was $544 billion, 76 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). If spending continues at the current pace, debt would total $23 trillion by 2026. The majority of federal spending is on entitlements (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid). While Republican lawmakers have expressed concern over federal debt projections, analyses of President Trump’s campaign proposals by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget would increase the debt by $5.3 trillion over the next ten years, mostly in the form of corporate tax breaks, increasing spending for the U.S. military and infrastructure investments.
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