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Obama Would Cut Subsidies to Wealthy Farms

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Obama administration’s proposed 2012 federal budget released today targets several wasteful agriculture programs, including cutting $4.25 billion over 10 years from subsidies to large farm operations, wealthy landowners and the crop insurance program. Continuing these subsidies is completely unjustified at a time when growers are profiting from years of record-setting income and commodity crop prices are skyrocketing.

The Obama proposal contrasts with the cuts in federal spending that House Republicans proposed on Friday (Feb. 12) for the rest of the current (2011) fiscal year. The GOP plan would make no cuts in agricultural subsidies despite “Tea Party” rhetoric about limiting federal spending and calls from the conservative Heritage Foundation and the libertarian Cato Institute to reform these outdated and misdirected farm programs.

The President’s willingness to make long-overdue reforms to farm and insurance subsidies opens the door to restoring last year’s cuts to funding for school lunches and other nutrition programs. The House Republicans plan would trim $747 million this year alone from the highly effective Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.

It is unconscionable to propose cutting a program that puts food in hungry children’s mouths while continuing to send billions to farmers and landlords that are headed for a record profitable year.

- Craig Cox, Environmental Working Group senior vice-president and director of EWG’s Iowa office.

Obama’s conservation proposals are less robust. While the administration would make a larger investment in conservation than in recent years – and is light years ahead of the GOP proposals – the proposed 2012 budget still falls well short of the funding authorized by the 2008 farm bill. Adding insult to injury, the administration would permanently eliminate a combined 1,088,783 acres from the Conservation Stewardship Program, Grassland Reserve Program and the Wetland Reserve Program, which protect vulnerable land.

Chronically underfunded conservation programs are the only line of defense we have against environmentally destructive industrial agriculture practices that degrade soil and pollute water. If we want to continue to grow our own food in America, protecting water and soil must be our top priority.

- Craig Cox