When the talk turns to money, the mood turns grim pretty fast in Washington, D.C. That was the message from American Farm Bureau leaders to Kansas Farm Bureau members attending this week's County Presidents Trip to the capitol.
Mary Kay Thatcher, who specializes in budget issues said House Agricultural Committee Chairman Collin Peterson is prepared to start writing a new Farm Bill this year, even though the 2007 bill will not expire until 2012.
"He has already put out the word that we should ask ourselves what would be in the Farm Bill if we had 10% less money," she told the delegates.
There is also a movement to cut money from the crop insurance program and the looming threat of a reconciliation bill to reduce the deficit that will require every department of government to make cuts, she said.
"You have to realize that 70% of all the money in USDA is in nutrition programs," she said. "Those programs are off limits. So if 10% gets cut, it is all going to come out of the 30% that is left over."
Nutrition programs are mushrooming, she said. In 2000, there were 17 million Americans on Food Stamps. Today, that number has ballooned to more than 54 million.
She said she sees a "healthy debate" emerging on how money gets used, with a head-on confrontation between direct payments and crop insurance.