27 Members Advise Super Committee to Avoid Secret Farm BillThu, 03 Nov 2011 15:44:38 CDT
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) today with a bipartisan group of 26 members sent a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (Super Committee) expressing concern over the intent of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to push through a "secret" Farm Bill.
"Very few Members negotiating and adding new entitlements to a secret farm bill is not the kind of deficit reducing farm reform we need," said Rep. Kind. "Targeted agriculture spending cuts should definitely be on the table but creating costly new farm programs should not. The Super Committee should avoid pushing through a complex new farm bill without giving Congress the opportunity to debate and amend this important legislation."
Rep. Kind has long been an advocate for reforming farm bill programs that steer taxpayer funded subsides to very few but very large agribusinesses, resulting in the top 10 percent of recipients getting 76 percent of subsidy dollars. These subsidies are fiscally irresponsible and only distort the marketplace.
Tasked with reducing the deficit by $1.5 trillion between 2012 and 2021, the Super Committee will consider several cuts and make a recommendation to Congress by November 23. These recommendations are not subject to amendment or filibuster. The cosigners of the letter are in favor of targeted agriculture cuts and finding efficiencies within current programs, but do not support the creation of new farm programs without Congressional consideration.
"It has become apparent that some believe they can create new programs and entitlements with limited Congressional scrutiny and input. We urge the Joint Select Committee to resist proposals that would go beyond its mandate of deficit reduction and authorize new, complicated agriculture programs that have not been the subject of Congressional review," write the lawmakers.
In addition, a dozen organizations and farm bill stakeholders from across the political spectrum have endorsed the letter.
"We thank Rep. Kind and all of the other signatories for their effort to stop the subsidy lobby from writing a new farm bill behind closed doors with a brand new entitlement that provides a business income guarantee for farm operations with vast land-holdings that are enjoying record profits," said Craig Cox, Vice President of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the Environmental Working Group. "We need an open, democratic process to produce a farm bill that meets the needs of all Americans."
"Federal agricultural programs are in need of fundamental structural reform so that they are fiscally sustainable and economically sound," said Pete Sepp, Executive Vice President of National Taxpayers Union. "The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) urges the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to concentrate on these principles when examining federal farm policy, instead of venturing into new entitlements that could have adverse consequences for taxpayers. NTU commends the efforts of Representative Kind and his colleagues in ensuring that the Joint Select Committee focuses on bringing federal farm spending under control."
"Anyone who thinks a bill driven by industry lobbyists, written behind closed doors, and negotiated in secret will be a good deal for taxpayers or the hungry should have their head examined, said Jim French, Kansas Farmer and Agriculture Advocacy Lead for Oxfam America. "The 'Secret Farm Bill' has done the seemingly impossible, uniting Democrats and Republicans in Congress to oppose this bad bill. Members of the Super Committee should reject the 'Secret Farm Bill'."
The text of the letter sent to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction and the names of the 27 House Members who support the letter are below:
November 3, 2011
The Honorable Patty Murray
Co-Chair, Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction
448 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Jeb Hensarling
Co-Chair, Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction
129 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairwoman Murray and Chairman Hensarling:
We are writing to express our concern with reports that the House and Senate Agriculture Committees intend to use the expedited legislative process of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to authorize new Farm Bill programs and entitlements outside of regular order. As part of the Deficit Reduction process, the Agriculture Committees are responsible for reviewing existing programs and identifying where the Congress can find savings. However, we are greatly troubled by any attempt to use the Joint Select Committee to authorize costly new mandatory programs without adequate Congressional review.
As you know, Congress charged the Joint Select Committee with the task of reducing the deficit by $1.5 trillion between 2012 and 2021 and provided for its legislative recommendations to be brought to the floor of both the House and the Senate for expedited consideration. Furthermore, its recommendations are not subject to amendment or filibuster. Congress implemented these rules to dull the pain of politically contentious but fiscally responsible measures. Yet, it has become apparent that some believe they can create new programs and entitlements with limited Congressional scrutiny and input.
We urge the Joint Select Committee to resist proposals that would go beyond its mandate of deficit reduction and authorize new, complicated agriculture programs that have not been the subject of Congressional review. The Joint Select Committee should instead act to find efficiencies within existing programs. If the Agricultural Committees believe that these cuts will require a fundamental redesign of agricultural programs, those Committees can and should move legislation through regular order.
Donna Christensen (Virgin Islands)
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