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The Washington Feed

Cloud of uncertainty lingers over agriculture

August 3, 2011

Breathe easy now. All is well in our nation’s capital. President Obama and our congressional leaders have finally reached a deal on raising the federal debt limit and not raising new taxes. According to the President, the agreement will lift “the cloud of uncertainty” that has been hanging over the USA and much of the world, threatening terrible consequences for all. No longer should we worry.

Silly us. We should have known that our political leaders would come through. They always do at the last minute. My favorite public statement during the crisis came from Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) who said something along the lines of "we all knew this was coming. Why do we always wait until near the deadline to act? If we don’t get this mess straightened out, we (meaning all of Congress) should be fired." Let’s hear it for the Senator. Rare words of wisdom from the mouth of a politician.

The sad truth of all that has resulted from the debt ceiling negotiations is that the cloud of uncertainty has not been lifted. This nation’s citizens are dazed, confused and concerned. Business is unsure of what is going to happen. U.S. agriculture, in particular, faces some of the biggest uncertainties and obstacles of all.

There will be severe cuts to agency budgets with the prospect of even deeper cuts to follow. Agriculture will probably absorb more than its share. Too often, those who don’t understand its importance look at agriculture and its guiding farm policies as expendable subsidies, unnecessary spending programs, self-serving regulations and other activities that lead to increased food prices, cost burdens, environmental deterioration and unfavorable global trade agreements for the U.S.

Those critics lose sight of the fact that agriculture must produce more to feed an alarming increase in the world’s population numbers. The United Nations says that farmers must produce over 70% more food by 2050 to keep up with that growth. The only way to accomplish such a critical objective is to support agriculture, not attack it, and certainly not implement drastic budget cutting measures that redirect funds from farm programs to other areas. Modern agriculture production is more important now than ever.

The 2012 Farm Bill will be one of the most important ones ever debated. Discussions have already begun. Certainly spending cuts will be required as Congress looks to reduce waste. But, Members of Congress must not overreact and cripple modern agriculture by hampering its objective of producing the most abundant, wholesome and safest food available. They must also not stack on new regulatory requirements that contribute to the tough regulatory challenges U.S agriculture faces today.

I wish I could guarantee that these negative possibilities will not occur; however, the forecast is not promising. Despite statements to the contrary, a cloud of uncertainty continues.

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