In a statement made in Iowa earlier this week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack opposed further agriculture cuts and opposed moves by lawmakers to take defense cuts off the table as part of the sequestration negotiations.
Sequestration was the result of last year’s debt ceiling negotiations. In exchange for raising the debt ceiling, Congress and the White House agreed to cut $1 trillion from the budget and Congress pledged to find an additional $1.2 trillion to cut within a year. If Congress failed to pass the necessary spending cuts and tax increases, which they did indeed fail to pass, automatic spending cuts would go into effect. The cuts would reduce federal spending across the board by about $109 billion a year for the next decade.
In response to these impending cuts, some lawmakers have moved to exempt the Defense Department, stating that any cuts to their budget would harm national security. The underlying logic behind that exemption, however, would be to shift the bulk of the spending cuts onto social programs and discretionary spending.
Secretary Vilsack has argued that this shift could disproportionately hurt the agriculture sector, which has already suffered from significant budget cuts the last two years.
“The bill passed by the U.S. Senate in July has $23 billion in cuts, but some proposals would cut as much as $50 billion from agricultural programs and another $139 billion from nutrition programs,” Vilsack said. “That would be a major blow to the rural economy… Isn’t there a single cut, a single efficiency, that can be had in the defense budget?”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer