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I had just walked into our kitchen—I flipped on the switch to the garbage disposal when it hit. The table and chairs danced across the room, water pipes began rattling and the flowers fell from their vases attached to the wall.
My first thought was, “What have I done now?” Then, I assumed it was coming from the heavy construction equipment that was operating out front. Next, that a helicopter was about to crash, and, finally, the second coming was underway. Funny how many thoughts can race through one’s mind when something alarming and unfamiliar is unfolding.
Finally, I realized we were in an earthquake. The D.C. area had just experienced a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, the strongest tremor in these parts in nearly 70 years.
Now that D.C. has settled down somewhat from a panic-filled afternoon and an over abundance of news media coverage (and I do mean to insert the word “over” as extra emphasis on abundance), we return to business as usual. However, the event left me with one trailing thought: is another earthquake about to jolt agriculture as the new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction contemplates its goals for reducing the budget within the mandatory guidelines it faces? Sure, the debt ceiling agreement postponed some upcoming tough decisions on the farm programs and issues like ethanol. However, both are likely to see reductions as the Select Committee does its work.
Some cuts were already approved in the initial debt ceiling agreement. These were to the tune of over $900 billion over the next 10 years. Yet, $1.2 trillion in additional cuts must be decided by the third week in November. If Congress doesn’t follow up by passing legislation, then automatic cuts will take place.
Entitlement programs and tax credits certainly will be targeted. Direct payments, crop insurance and conservation programs—all three are in the cross hairs. Speculation on ag spending cuts ranges from $10 to $50 billion over a decade.
Definitely, every federal agency needs to do its part in reducing spending. However, Congressional Ag leaders are correct in their public statements that ag cuts should reflect their overall share of the federal budget.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says these cuts might be a good thing for agriculture. He said that they represented “a tremendous opportunity.” That could be true as long as the cuts are done proportionately.
The Select Committee meets for the first time on Sept. 16. Then, the games will truly begin. One final thought, on one track, we have a train called Debt Reduction. On another track, we have one we’ll call The Balanced Budget Amendment. Let’s just hope we don’t have something like an earthquake come along and derail one or both.