Thatcher: specific cuts still unclear

There is $23 billion committed to be cut from federal farm programs over the next decade. American Farm Bureau Farm Policy Specialist Mary Kay Thatcher said it’s unclear which programs will be cut, but she reiterated the importance of maintaining a strong farm safety net.

“One of the most important things to remember is that you write a farm bill for bad times, not for good times,” said Thatcher, in an interview provided by the American Farm Bureau Federation. “While we’re having pretty darn good prices in agriculture for virtually every commodity right now, we know that that will change and when it does change is when we’ll need to make sure that we have a safety net that protects farmers.”

The general thinking is that the bulk of the cuts will come out of commodity programs, and while members of Congress see high commodity prices, Thatcher said what they forget is that high prices mean nothing if there’s no production.

“We need to work on things like crop insurance, like safety nets that would provide protection for people like that,” she said. “2011 is a perfect year to talk about that. We’ve had floods and droughts and hurricanes and more weather disasters this year than any year we can remember for a long time.”

Depending on where the money is cut, Thatcher said there needs to be constructive alternatives for producers.

“If we indeed are eliminating direct payments, I think it makes the crop insurance program an even more important safety net,” said Thatcher. “We need to make sure that we don’t take major cuts in that program and that we come up with a second program that will complement crop insurance and really provide a safety net.”

It’s important to have the ability to grow food and to remain competitive globally, said Thatcher, adding that U.S. farm subsidies are currently much less than the vast majority of other developed countries.

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