WASHINGTON - In advance of Thursday morning’s mark-up of budget reconciliation measures in the Senate Agriculture Committee, Chairman Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) proposed to extend bloated, highly controversial U.S. farm subsidy programs for an additional four years, through 2011, while slashing funds for food stamps and conservation programs. The proposal makes only a modest 2.5 percent cut to massive crop subsidies for mega producers, imposes no limits on payments for the agribusiness-scale commodity operations that collect most of the subsidy money, and slashes conservation and food stamp spending.
In response to these budget proposals, Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook made the following statement:
“The Chambliss proposal is worse than business as usual – it is business as usual forever. It locks in benefits to the biggest subsidy recipients at the expense of everyone else, including low income families who need food stamps now more than ever. Congress should impose no budget cuts whatsoever on the food stamp program or conservation programs and rein in commodity spending as its first priority.
“Incredibly, the proposal extends for four years the very worst of the notorious 2002 Farm Bill. If enacted, it would severely undermine the White House and the U.S. Trade Representative at the World Trade Organization (WTO). It is a slap in the face to the poorest countries in the world, who have unanimously asked that the U.S. end – not extend – subsidy programs that are using money from American taxpayers to destroy farmers’ livelihoods in Africa and elsewhere.
“Indeed, if this proposal passes, the United States might as well quit the WTO. The only thing U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman will get out of this round of negotiations is frequent flyer miles.”
In April 2005, President Bush proposed a payment limit for commodity subsidies, but backed down under pressure from Congress.
“It’s time for the White House to stand up to the power of these special interests and demand an agriculture policy that reflects fairness and pressing priorities, both domestically and in world trade negotiations,” said Cook.