Vilsack Says President’s Budget Shifts Money From Crop Insurance to Nutrition AssistanceFri, 17 Feb 2012 14:36:25 CST
A new farm bill and the President’s proposed budget were main topics at a recent Senate Agriculture Committee hearing where Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testified.
Vilsack emphasized the need for streamlining and flexibility in a new farm bill and acknowledged that the President’s approach is to shift money away from crop insurance programs and towards nutrition assistance programs.
“As you consider the Farm Bill I hope that you’ll recognize the importance of streamlining the number of programs that we have, providing us the flexibility to be able to use these programs creatively and adjust them,” Vilsack said.
Committee chairwoman Senator Debbie Stabenow agreed, calling the farm bill a jobs bill with rural development as a major component.
“This can mean helping small towns build a safe drinking water system, or affordable broadband internet access, or it can be in the form of streamlined programs that are more accessible for the people who use them,” Stabenow said.
Some senators, including Pat Roberts from Kansas, questioned the President’s proposed cuts to the crop insurance program.
“Madame Chairman, this is the number one issue that we have heard about in every hearing that we’ve had in regard to what farmers need and what they rely on,” Roberts said.
Vilsack told committee members that the President deliberately decided to preserve nutrition assistance programs over crop insurance programs.
“The President, when he looked at the agricultural budget, basically had to decide whether or not to focus on a balanced approach, an approach that basically took resources from farm programs, conservation programs and nutrition assistance programs. He opted not to take money from nutrition assistance programs. In the President’s view these insurance companies are perhaps in a better position to withstand these difficult times than the folks who are currently struggling with tight budgets and can’t afford to put enough food on the table for their families,” Vilsack said.
“We do recognize that part of that safety net is some process by which revenues can be protected during difficult times. The fiscal constraints that we’re working under will require us to modify existing programs to provide that safety net,” he said.
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