USDA faces budget cuts

Farmer: It seems that ag is targeted, but not welfare.


June 28, 2017

The looming possibility of cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture isn’t what farmers in Eastern New Mexico want to see, but if spending on welfare and food assistance programs share the cuts, they say they are willing to face them.

The proposed USDA 2018 budget, unveiled in May, shows plans to cut $4.8 billion from the agency, a 21 percent cut.

The USDA funds a wide range of programs from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to subsidies for crop insurance.

New restrictions on the subsidies will limit insurance premium subsidies to $40,000 for individuals, projected to “save taxpayers about $28.8 billion over 10 years,” according to the budget.

It does not seem fair that the proposed cuts seem to target the agricultural side of the USDA, while the welfare program goes without any cuts, said Herman Lopez, Quay County Farmer.

Herman said cuts to crop insurance would have a huge impact on himself, the region and the entire country. He said cuts to the subsidies from those programs will make it difficult for farmers to operate in the event of loss from a disaster.

If you don’t have crop insurance and you have a failure, it will put you out of business, said Donnie Bidegain.

Bidegain said when a USDA subsidy was cut in the past, it was in part a way to eliminate a system that was in disarray and push farmers to the crop insurance system. He said in the past, the subsidies paid farmers whether they grew a crop or not, but by using the crop insurance system, farmers actually had to prove they attempted to grow a crop.

Bidegain said if this latest round of cuts eliminates the crop insurance, then that leaves farmers in the area and across the country without a safety net.

The federal subsidies from crop insurance is the only thing that has kept farmers in the eastern New Mexico region going through the drought, said Robert Lopez, a Tucumcari farmer.

Lopez said in the Arch Hurley Conservancy District, there would have been no way that farmers could have continued without the insurance because of the water situation. He said insurance is the only thing that farmers have as a back up in the event of a disaster.

Lopez said the crop insurance is the best as there is no way to cheat the program. He said each individual farm claim is based on past crop yields. The system also benefits the farmer as it pays on the current year market prices if you have a claim.

Other USDA items on the chopping block include market access programs and foreign market development, according to New Mexico Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte.

“Those kinds of cuts really put the United States at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing developing nations. New Mexico’s been successful when it comes to introducing our pecans into the Asian markets. It’s using those kinds of programs that’s helped us get that access,” said Witte.

He added that cuts to the USDA threaten the continued distribution of New Mexico products to 47 countries.

“We have our products around the world, and it takes a lot of work to make sure they stay there, so it’ll be tough,” he said. “It’ll be a challenge for the state, but our farmers are resilient. We’ll figure it out, but it’ll just be one of those things.”


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