Alabama Farmers Speak Against Farm Bill Cuts
With President Bush and Congress considering agriculture budget cuts and other changes that could reopen the 2002 Farm Bill, the Alabama Farmers Federation is encouraging its members to contact their senators and congressmen and urge continued support for the Farm Bill and farm programs.Alfa Farmers Southwest Area Vice President Jake Harper of Wilcox County, Jeannie Bragg Harvey of Madison County, Alabama Peanut Producers President Carl Sanders of Coffee County, and State Young Farmers Committee Chairman Rodney Rhodes of Escambia County traveled to Washington, D.C., Feb. 16 and met with members of Congress from Alabama who serve on the House and Senate agriculture and budget committees. They included Rep. Terry Everett, R-Rehobeth, Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Anniston, Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.The Alabama farmers, accompanied by Federation Commodity Director Jimmy Carlisle and Federation National Affairs Director Keith Gray, related the harmful effects to agriculture that Alabama would experience should the proposed cuts become law.Among those recommendations proposed by the president are imposing further payment limits on farmers to $275,000, elimination of the triple entity rule and generic marketing certificates and tying marketing loans to historical production.The group of Alabama farmers were united in their opposition to these proposals.The Alabama producers pointed out that the farm bill is currently $14 billion below what the Congressional Budget Office projected it would cost, and production agriculture subsidies comprise just 0.5 percent of the federal budget.The Alabama farmers discussed how the president’s recommendations would unfairly impact Southern producers since their crops are more expensive to produce and would meet the payment limits more quickly. It was also pointed out that the Payment Limits Commission, which was mandated by the 2002 Farm Bill, said the Farm Bill should not be opened up before its reauthorization in 2007.Of particular concern was the way proposed changes would impact Alabama farmers who have shifted or expanded acreage in recent years or who have increased yields. Because payments under the president’s plan would be based on historical acreage bases, farmers in Alabama who switched from cotton to peanuts or vice versa in recent years would not be eligible for the same level of support as other producers.Producers noted that the president’s recommendations were impractical and would remove the flexibility and stability promised them in the 2002 Farm Bill. Farmers also said it would be foolish to reduce farm spending while the United States is renegotiating with its trading partners on agriculture subsidies and getting nothing in return from them.Following the Alabama farmers’ trip to Washington, both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees asked their respective budget committees not to cut the farm bill. The agriculture committees pointed out that the agriculture budget already suffered a $1.4 billion cut in mandatory programs in FY 05. Further, the committees pointed out that the president’s budget would disproportionately affect mandatory spending and user fees in agriculture when compared to other programs.More than 200 Federation members were scheduled to travel to Washington in March to discuss the budget and other concerns with lawmakers during the organization’s annual legislative trip. The group also was expected to meet with newly appointed Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns.