Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Iowa: Obama Blasts Federal Farm Subsidies

Agriculture subsidies make no sense and should be capped, President says...
President Obama spoke in favor of capping federal agricultural subsides on Tuesday during a breakout session at his Rural Economic Forum in Peosta, Iowa. Federal subsidies "make no sense," President Obama said, and blamed powerful Ag state Members of Congress for the decades of government funding. (Above: President Obama, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, left, and forum participants)

"You're preaching to the choir with me," President Obama told one farmer, after the fellow urged a cap for all subsidies, arguing that these make it difficult for younger farmers to afford to buy land.

Another farmer suggested the Administration come up with "a comprehensive plan" to "end subsides entirely."

"There was a candidate in 2008 named Barack Obama who laid out a serious proposal to cap subsidies," the President told the group, adding that federal Ag subsidies "make no sense."

"We believe we need caps," he added. The President was greeted with murmurs of approval as he spoke.

But while the President has endorsed caps since he was a candidate, little has happened. In 2009, during a budget battle that seems tame in comparison to recent events, President Obama's White House team proposed a plan that would save $9.7 billion over a decade by putting strict limits on farm subsidies. For a variety of reasons, it was roundly shouted down by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, as well as by the National Farmers Union and other Ag groups.

The breakout session was led by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and titled "Promoting Agricultural Innovation and Renewable Energy Jobs in Rural Communities." The White House invited the farmers, ranchers, and energy entrepreneurs who participated.

Tell Congress, President says...
President Obama told the group that subsidies have remained a thick part of the federal financil fabric thanks to Members of Congress from rural states who have battled capping. As he's done on each stop of his rural tour, including Monday's town hall meetings in Cannon Falls, MN and Decorah, Iowa, he suggested his constituents contact Congress and let them know what is expected of them.

"The voices of rural America" need to tell Congress what they want, the President said, adding that that is the only way subsides will get capped or eliminated. The President last spoke about reforming subsidies during a town hall on the economy in Washington, DC in May.

There was no mention of the upcoming budget battle, or the bipartisan Super Committee, which must present the President with a plan to trim billions of dollars from the federal budget by Thanksgiving. The 2012 Farm Bill is on the horizon, and a number of the farmers mentioned that they are worried about it.

The President also heard from the group that financial issues are "the biggest hurdle" to farming in America, and the high price of land is what's keeping young folks from entering agriculture. The President promised that "copious notes" were being taken during the five different breakout sessions that were part of his Forum. Before Vilsack's session, he attended a breakout session hosted by SBA Administrator Karen Mills, titled "Growing Rural Small Business."

Related: During the Forum, the President announced new small business support initiatives to create rural jobs, as well as a new multimillion dollar biofuels project. Cabinet Secretaries Ray LaHood (Transportation) Shaun Donovan (Housing) and Ken Salazar (Interior) also joined the President in Iowa. The White House backgrounder on the event is here.

*Reuters photo

No comments:

Post a Comment