The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Farmers weigh in on looming cuts


June 23, 2017

The looming possibility of cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture isn’t what farmers in Eastern New Mexico want to see, but if spending on welfare and food assistance programs share the cuts, they say they are willing to face them.

The proposed USDA 2018 budget, unveiled in May, shows plans to cut $4.8 billion from the agency, a 21 percent cut.

The USDA funds a wide range of programs from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to subsidies for crop insurance.

New restrictions on the subsidies will limit insurance premium subsidies to $40,000 for individuals, projected to “save taxpayers about $28.8 billion over 10 years,” according to the budget.

Roosevelt County farmer Rick Ledbetter said he uses crop insurance and sees any cutbacks on the program as “the biggest threat to the ag community.”

“Rather than have a disaster (relief) program, they put in place these federal crop insurance deals. I utilize them, and I think most farmers do,” he said.

Farmer Steve Bailey, of Grady, also takes advantage of crop insurance. While he doesn’t want to see subsidies cut, he said he would be receptive if the other USDA programs were taking an equal share.

“I wouldn’t be for cuts if they’re just hitting the USDA and not welfare. If it’s across the board, I’m game. I’m willing to give up a little if everybody else is. Yes, it’ll make it hard on us, but nothing’s easy on the farm, contrary to what some people think,” he said.

Ledbetter was less receptive of cutting agriculture due to the fact that the industry is already struggling.

“I agree with the fact that government is too big, and there needs to be some cuts all right. I don’t want to see the agriculture part of USDA cut, because agriculture right now is not doing very well. Commodity prices are cheap, and we need that safety net. Anything they cut is gonna hurt that safety net,” he said.

Other USDA items on the chopping block include market access programs and foreign market development, according to New Mexico Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte.

“Those kinds of cuts really put the United States at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing developing nations. New Mexico’s been successful when it comes to introducing our pecans into the Asian markets. It’s using those kinds of programs that’s helped us get that access,” said Witte.

He added that cuts to the USDA threaten the continued distribution of New Mexico products to 47 countries.

“We have our products around the world, and it takes a lot of work to make sure they stay there, so it’ll be tough,” he said. “It’ll be a challenge for the state, but our farmers are resilient. We’ll figure it out, but it’ll just be one of those things.”


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